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The Holy Father's Addresses to the
Members of the Pontifical Council for Culture

 

  1. The Church and culture, 18 January 1983
  2. The PCC's work now and plans for the future, 16 January 1984
  3. Evangelizing today's cultures, 15 January 1985
  4. Changing times for human culture, 13 January 1986
  5. A fresh approach to evangelizing people and cultures, 17 January 1987
  6. The Gospel must bear fruit in every culture, 15 January 1988
  7. Evangelizing cultures and inculturating the Gospel, 13 January 1989
  8. The world's changing cultural horizon, 12 January 1990
  9. Letting the Gospel take root in every culture, 10 January 1992
  10. The new PCC's tasks: dialogue with non-believers and the inculturation of faith, 18 March 1994
  11. To participants in the First Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Commission for the Cultural Patrimony of the Church, 12 October 1995
    [Italian]
  12. The Gospel is good news for cultures, 14 March 1997
  13. To the Pontifical Commission for the Cultural Heritage of the Church, 25 September 1997
  14. Christ makes all cultures new, 19 November 1999
  15. To the participants in the Plenary of the Pontifical Commission for the Cultural Heritage of the Church, 31 March 2000
  16. Handing on Faith at the Heart of Cultures, 16 March 2002
  17. To the participants in the Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Commission for the Cultural Heritage of the Church, 9 October 2002
  18. Open up to Christ the cultures marked by unbelief or religious indifference, 13 March 2004
  19. Reciprocal openness between the cultures is a privileged context for dialogue, 15 June 2007
  20. Secularization in the Church distorts the Christian faith and the lifestyle of believers, 8 March 2008
  21. To participants in the Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Council for Culture (November 13, 2010)

top1. The Church and Culture, 13 January 1983

Your Eminences, Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

1. It is with special joy that I welcome, for the first time, and officially, the Pontificial Council for Culture. First of all, I would like to thank the members of the international Council whom I recently appointed and who responded so quickly to the invitation to meet in Rome in order to discuss the orientation and the future activities of the Pontifical Council for Culture. Your presence on this Council is an honour and a source of hope for the Church. Your acknowledged reputations in widely diverse areas of culture, of the sciences, of the humanities, of the media, in universities, and in sacred disciplines, allow one to anticipate fruitful work from this new Council that I decided to create, taking my inspiration from the directives of the Second Vatican Council.

2. The Second Vatican Council has given a new dynamism in the domain of culture, especially in the Constitution Gaudium et Spes. Today it is indeed an arduous task to understand the extreme variety of cultures, of customs, of traditions, and of civilizations. At first sight, the challenge can seem to be beyond us, but is not this very challenge proportionate to our faith and our hope? During the Second Vatican Council, the Church recognized that a dramatic gap had established itself between the Church and culture. The modern world is fascinated by its conquests, and its scientific and technological achievements. But, too often the modern world gives itself over to ideologies, to ethical criteria dictated by practicality, to behavior which is in contradiction to the Gospels, or which, at least, calmly discounts Christian values.

3. Therefore, it is in the name of the Christian faith that the Second Vatican Council committed the whole Church to listen to modern man in order to understand him and to invent a new kind of dialogue which would permit the originality of the Gospel message to be carried to the heart of contemporary mentalities. We must then rediscover the apostolic creativity and the prophetic power of the first disciples in order to face new cultures. Christ's word must appear in all of its freshness to the young generations whose attitudes are sometimes so difficult to understand for the traditionally-minded, but who are far from being closed to spiritual values.

4. Many times I have affirmed that the dialogue between the Church and the cultures of the world has assumed a vital importance for the future of the Church and of the world. If I may be allowed today to do so, I should like to return to this subject in order to emphasize two principal and complementary aspects which correspond to the two areas in which the Church is active: that of the evangelization of cultures and that of the defence of man and of his cultural advancement. Both of these tasks demand that new pathways of dialogue between the Church and the cultures of our period be forged.

This dialogue is absolutely indispensable for the Church, because otherwise evangelization will remain a dead letter. Saint Paul did not hesitate to say: "Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel!" At the end of the twentieth century, as in the Apostle's time, the Church must be all things to all people, embracing today's cultures sympathetically. There are still classes and mentalities, countries, and entire areas to be evangelized, which presupposes a long and courageous process of inculturation so that the Gospel can penetrate the soul of living cultures fulfilling their highest expectations and making them grow proportionately in Christian faith, hope and charity. The Church, through its missionaries, has already accomplished incomparable work on all continents, but this missionary work is never completed, because sometimes cultures have only been affected superficially, and in any case, as cultures continually change, they demand a renewed approach. Let us even add that this noble term of mission applies henceforth to old civilizations marked by Christianity, but which are now threatened with indifference, agnosticism, or even irreligion. In addition, new sectors of culture are appearing, with diverse objectives, methods, and languages. Intercultural dialogue is therefore a must for Christians in all countries.

5. In order to evangelize effectively, it is necessary to adopt resolutely an attitude of exchange and of comprehension in order to sympathize with the cultural identity of nationalities, of ethnic groups, and of varied sectors of modern society. Moreover, it is necessary to work for a greater closeness among cultures, so that the universal values of man will be accepted everywhere in a spirit of fraternity and solidarity. Consequently, evangelization presupposes the penetration of the specific identity of each culture and also favours exchanges among cultures, opening all of them to universal values and, I would even say, to the values of Catholicity.

It was in thinking of this heavy responsibility that I wanted to create the Pontifical Council for Culture, in order to give the whole Church, both its leaders and the faithful, a strong incentive to become aware of the duty that is incumbent upon all to listen carefully to modern man, not in order to approve all of his behaviour, but rather in order to discover first of all his latent hopes and aspirations. This is why I have invited bishops, those who work in the various services of the Holy See, international Catholic organizations, universities, and all men of faith and of culture to commit themselves with conviction to a dialogue among cultures, bringing to this dialogue the salvific word of the Gospel.

6. We must, in addition, remember that Christian have much to receive in this dynamic relationship between the Church and the contemporary world. The Ecumenical Council of Vatican II emphasized this point and it is appropriate to remember it. The Church has been greatly enriched by acquisitions from so many civilizations. The secular experience of so many nationalities, the progress of science, the hidden treasures of diverse cultures, through which the nature of man becomes more fully visible, and through which new paths toward the truth open up, all of that is an indisputable advantage for the Church as the Council recognized (cf. Gaudium et Spes, n. 44). And this enrichment continues. Indeed, think of the results of scientific research which have led to a better knowledge of the universe, to a deeper understanding of the mystery of man; think of the advantages that the new means of communication and contact among men have procured for society and for the Church; think of the capacity of producing innumerable economic and cultural goods, and especially of promoting the education of the masses, and of healing formerly incurable diseases. What admirable achievements! All of this is to man's credit. And all of this has greatly benefited the Church itself, in its life, its organization, its work, and its own labour. Thus, it is understandable the People of God, in solidarity with the world in which they live, would recognize the discoveries and accomplishments of our contemporaries and participate in them as much as is possible so that man himself may grow and develop to the full extent of his potentiality. This presupposes a great capacity to accept and to admire, but also a clear sense of discernment. And now, I would like to elaborate upon this last point.

7. In urging us to evangelize, our faith inspires us to love man himself. And, man, today, more than ever before, needs to be defended against the threats which weigh upon his development. The love we draw from the spring of the Gospel, in the wake of the mystery of the Incarnation of the Word, brings us to proclaim that man merits honour and love for himself and must be respected in his dignity. Thus, brothers must learn again to speak to each other as brothers, to respect each other, to understand each other, so that man himself may survive and grow in dignity, liberty, and honour. To the extent that the modern world stifles dialogue among cultures, it heads towards conflicts which run the risk of being fatal for the future of human civilization. Beyond prejudices and cultural barriers, of racial, linguistic, religious, and ideological separation, human beings must recognize themselves as brothers and sisters, and accept each other in their diversity.

8. The lack of understanding among men makes them run a fatal risk. But man is also threatened in his biological being by the irreparable deterioration of the environment, by the risk of genetic manipulations, attacks against unborn life and by torture, which is currently still seriously widespread. Our love for man must give us the courage to denounce ideas which reduce the human being to a thing that one can manipulate, humiliate, or arbitrarily eliminate.

Man is also insidiously threatened in his moral being, because he his subject to hedonistic currents which exacerbate his instincts and fascinate him with illusions of consumption without discrimination. Public opinion is manipulated by the deceitful suggestions of powerful advertising, the one-dimensional values of which ought to make us critical and vigilant.

In addition, man is currently humiliated by economic systems that exploit entire collectivities. Furthermore, man is also the victim of certain political or ideological regimes that imprison the soul of the people. As Christians, we cannot keep silent and we must denounce this cultural oppression which prevents people and ethnic groups from being themselves in conformity with their profound vocation. It is through these cultural values that the individual or collective man lives a truly human life and one cannot tolerate that his reasons for living be destroyed. History will judge our period severely to the extent that it has stifled, corrupted, and brutally enslaved cultures in so many areas of the world.

9. It is in this sense that I was eager to proclaim to UNESCO, before the assembly of all nations, what I am permitting myself to repeat to you today: "It is essential to affirm man for himself, and not for any other motive or reason: uniquely for himself! Moreover, it is necessary to love man because he is man, it is necessary to demand love for man because of the particular dignity that he possesses. These affirmations concerning man belong to the very substance of Christ's message and of the mission of the Church, despite everything that critics have been able to declare on the matter, and everything that the diverse currents opposed to religion in general and to Christianity in particular may have done" (Address to UNESCO, June 2, 1980, n. 10). This message is fundamental for making possible the work of the Church in the contemporary world. This is why I wrote in the conclusion of the encyclical Redemptor hominis that "man is and is always becoming the "way" for the daily life of the Church" (n. 21). Yes, man is "the way of the Church", because without this respect for man and his dignity, how could one announce to him the words of life and of truth?

10. Thus, it is in remembering these two principles of orientation, evangelization of cultures and defence of man, that the Pontifical Council for Culture will pursue its own work. On one hand, it is required that the evangelizer familiarize himself with the sociocultural environments in which he must announce the word of God; more important, the Gospel is itself a leavening agent for culture to the extent that it reaches man in his manner of thinking, behaving, working, enjoying himself, that is, as it reaches him in his cultural specificity. On the other hand, our faith gives us confidence in man - in man created in the image of God and redeemed by Christ - in man whom we want to defend and to love for himself, conscious as we are that he is man only because of his culture, that is, because of his freedom to grow integrally and with all of his specific abilities. Your task is difficult but splendid. Together you must contribute, to blazing new paths for the Church's dialogue with the contemporary world. How can one speak to the heart and to the intelligence of modern man in order to announce to him the salvific word? How can one make our contemporaries more sensitive to the intrisic value of the human being, to the dignity of each individual, to the hidden wealth in each culture?

Your role is great, because you must help the Church to become a creator of culture in its relationship with the modern world. We would be unfaithful to our mission to evangelize the present generations, if we left Christians without an understanding of new cultures. We would also be unfaithful to the spirit of charity which must animate us, if we didn't see in what respects man is today threatened in his humanity, and if we did not proclaim, by our words and actions, the necessity of defending individual and collective man, of saving him from the oppressions and enslavements which humiliate him.

11. In your work you are invited to collaborate with all men of good will. You will discover that the spirit of good is mysteriously at work in so many of our contemporaries, even in some of those who do not claim affiliation with any religion, but who seek to accomplish honestly and with courage their human vocation. Think of so many fathers and mothers, so many teachers and students, of workers dedicated to their tasks, of so many men and women devoted to the cause of peace, the common good, international cooperation and justice. Think also of all of the researchers who devote themselves with moral constancy and rigour to their useful work for society, of all the eager artists and creators of beauty. Do not hesitate to enter into dialogue with all of these persons of good will, many of whom perhaps secretly hope for the testimony and support of the Church in order better to defend and promote the true progress of man.

12. I warmly thank you for having come to work with us. In the name of the Church, the Pope is counting a great deal upon you; because as I said in the letter by which I created it, your Council "will bring regularly to the Holy See the echo of the great cultural aspirations throughout the world, delving into the expectations of contemporary civilizations and exploring new paths of cultural dialogue". Your Council will have above all else the value of witnessing. You must show Christians and the world the deep interest that the Church has in the progress of culture and in a fruitful dialogue among cultures, as in their beneficial encounter with the Gospel. Your role cannot be defined once and for all and a priori: experience will teach you the most efficacious means of action and those best adapted to the circumstances. Keep in regular contact with the Executive Committee of the Council - whom I congratulate and encourage - participate in their actions and in their research, propose your initiatives to them, and inform them of your experiences. What is evidently requested of the Council for Culture, is to implement its activity by means of dialogue, inspiration, testimony, and research. There is in those activities a particularly fruitful manner for the Church to be present in the world and to reveal to it the always new message of Christ the Redeemer.

With the approach of the Jubilee of the Redemption, I pray Christ to inspire you, to help you, so that your work will serve his plan, his Work of Salvation. And, with all my heart, I thank you in advance for your cooperation, I bless you, in the name of the Father, The Son, and the Holy Spirit.


top2. The PCC's work now and plans for the future, 16 January 1984

Dear Brothers in the episcopate, Dear Friends,

I extend a most hearty welcome to all of you, and I am happy to meet you during your annual reunion in Rome for a few special moments of reflection and orientation with the Pope. In you I greet with respect persons of culture throughout the world. You know the vital importance which I attach to the development of our contemporary cultures and to their profitable encounter with the saving Word of Christ the Liberator, source of grace and of cultures also.

1. During your working sessions, you are analysing the activities of the Pontifical Council for Culture, so as to plan its future action with a Christian outlook on cultures at the end of the twentieth century.

I hope that this Council, the most recent addition to the Roman Curia, will gradually exercise its own role, and I thank you for all that you have done since its foundation in May 1982. I thank especially Cardinal Garrone, President of the Committee of Presidency, Cardinal Sales, Archbishop Paul Poupard, President of the Executive Committee, Archbishop Antonio Javierre Ortas, Counsellor, Father Carrier, Secretary, and their collaborators, who are all working hard at the primary tasks of exploration and planning, and the distinguished members of the International Council whose competent help is and will be very valuable.

Already the Holy See and the Church, through the ecclesiastical universities and academies, specialized commissions, libraries and archives, have always made a contribution of the first order to the world in terms of education, teaching and research in the sacred arts and sciences. Various sections of the Curia share in this work, and it is certainly desirable that their involvement grow in response to the needs of our contemporary world and especially that it be more unified and better known. Your Council has an original part to play in this activity and cooperation.

2. Your role is especially to form strong links with the world of culture, in the Church as well as outside of ecclesial institutions, with bishops, religious and lay people involved in this field or representing official or private cultural associations, academic people, researchers and artists, all those who are interested in the thorough study of the cultural problems of our day. In conjunction with the local Churches, you see to it that these qualified representatives make known to the Church the results of their experiences, research and productions for the benefit of culture, things which the Church cannot ignore in its pastoral dialogue and which are a source of human enrichment, and that they receive for this the esteem of Christians.

3. One naturally thinks of international organizations such as UNESCO and the Council of Europe whose specific activities are dedicated to the service of culture and education. Your Council can contribute, as It has already done, to strengthening suitable co-operation with these organizations which are already in contact with the Holy See.

You are also in a good position to participate, along with other representatives of the Holy See and of the Church, in important congresses which deal with cultural problems and human sciences. In such fields, the presence of the Church, to the extent that it is wanted, is particularly significant and a source of great growth for the world and for itself, and it is important that it direct all of its attention to this.

4. The usual work of the Council is also to study in depth major cultural questions where' the faith is challenged and the Church especially involved. This is a valuable service to the Pope, to the Holy See and to the Church. The collection "Cultures and Dialogue", whose first and interesting volume on the case of Galileo is already known, can also make a useful contribution, as well as various projects which you are planning for dialogue between cultures and the Gospel.

5. In carrying out your projects, it is good, as you have the care to do, that you should call an the Episcopal Conferences so as to learn from them about initiatives which put into practice, in their areas, the objectives of the Second Vatican Council and especially of the Constitution Gaudium et Spes on culture. A better understanding of how the local Churches come to grips with the evolution of mentalities and cultures in their countries will help to direct better their evangelizing action. Interesting pastoral experiments in this line have been tried since the Council, allowing local Churches to deal in the light of the Gospel with complex problems produced by the rise of new cultures, the challenge of inculturation, new trends of thought, the often violent clash of cultures, and the loyal search for dialogue between them and the Church.

Some episcopates have already created a distinct commission for culture. Some dioceses have named an individual, sometimes an auxiliary bishop, responsible for the new problems arising from modern pastoral applications in this line. As you know, this is the solution I chose myself for the Diocese of Rome.

It will be very good to make known the results which these initiatives have produced, thus giving rise to useful exchanges of information and healthy competition.

6. Quite rightly also, you seek to collaborate with international Catholic organizations, many of which are especially interested in cultural problems and have expressed the desire to co-operate with you. These organizations are at the forefront of the activity carried out by Catholics in the promotion of culture, education and intercultural dialogue. That is why I am happy that your Council pays such attention to this important sector, working with the Pontifical Council for the Laity whose duty it is, in general, to follow the apostolate of international Catholic organizations.

7. On the other hand, many religious men and women do important work in this realm of culture. A number of religious institutes devoted to education and cultural progress, and to the understanding and evangelizing of cultures, have expressed their desire to participate actively in the work of the Pontifical Council for Culture, so as to seek together, in a spirit of fraternal co-operation, the best ways to promote the objectives of the Second Vatican Council in this vast field. In connection with the Sacred Congregation for Religious and for Secular Institutes, your Council will be able to help religious men and women in the specific work of evangelization which is theirs for the cultural advancement of the human person.

8. Through these few words, one can easily appreciate the importance and urgency of the mission entrusted to the Pontifical Council for Culture, a mission which finds its place and specific aspect in that of the organisms of the Holy See and in that of the entire Church, responsible for bringing the Good News to men quite marked by cultural progress but also by its limitations. More than ever, in fact, man is seriously threatened by anti-culture which reveals itself, among other ways, in growing violence, murderous confrontations, exploitation of instincts and selfish interests. In working for the progress of culture, the Church is always trying to see to it that collective wisdom triumphs over divisive interests. We must allow our generations to build a culture of peace. May our contemporaries rediscover a liking and esteem for culture, true victory of reason, brotherly understanding and sacred respect for man who is capable of love, creativity, contemplation, solidarity, transcendence!

In this Jubilee Year of the Redemption which has already given me the occasion to receive in pious pilgrimage many men and women of culture, I implore the blessing of the Lord on your difficult and fascinating task. May the message of reconciliation, liberation and love rising from the living spring of the Gospel purify and enlighten the cultures of our contemporaries in search of hope!


top3. Evangelizing today's cultures, 15 January 1985

Dear Brothers in the Episcopate, Dear Friends,

1. My joy is great this morning in receiving you in Rome on the occasion of the third annual meeting of the International Council of the Pontifical Council for Culture.

I sincerely thank you for your active presence and for having agreed to devote your time and energies to this close collaboration with the Apostolic See. I greet with particular affection Cardinal Gabriel-Marie Garrone, President of your Committee of Presidency, and also Cardinal Eugenio de Araujo Sales. I likewise turn with gratitude toward the executive leadership of the Pontifical Council for Culture represented by its President, Archbishop Paul Poupard and its Secretary Fr. Hervé Carrier, who, together with their zealous collaborators, both men and women, strive to accomplish a work that is outstanding both in quantity and in quality.

2. The Pontifical Council for Culture is invested, in my view, with a significance that is symbolic and full of hope. Indeed, I perceive you as qualified witnesses of Catholic culture throughout the world, charged to reflect likewise on the evolutions and expectations of the different cultures in the regions, as in the sectors of activity which are your own. In virtue of the mission which I have entrusted to you, you are called to assist the Holy See, with competence, to understand better the profound and diverse aspirations of the cultures of today and to discern better how the universal Church can respond to these. For, throughout the world, orientations, mentalities, ways of thinking and of conceiving the meaning of life are changing, exerting mutual influence on each other, confronting one another no doubt in a manner more striking than ever before. This is noted by all those who devote themselves with commitment to the advancement of man. It is good that your work of study, of consultation and of animation - undertaken in conjunction with the other departments of the Roman Curia, with universities, religious institutes, International Catholic Organizations and several important international agencies devoted to the promotion of cultures - gives you a clear awareness of the stakes presented by cultural activity in the broad sense of the term.

3. Beyond this respectful and disinterested openness to cultural realities in order to understand them better, the Christian cannot prescind from the question of evangelization. The Pontifical Council for Culture participates in the mission of the See of Peter for the evangelization of cultures and you share in the responsibility of the local Churches in the apostolic tasks required by the meeting

of the Gospel with the cultures of our time. To this end, an immense work is demanded of all Christians and the challenge should mobilize their energies within each people and each human community.

To you who have accepted the assignment of supporting the Holy See in its universal mission to the cultures of our time, I entrust the particular task of studying and examining in depth what the evangelization of cultures today means for the Church. Certainly, the concern for evangelizing cultures is not new for the Church, but it presents problems that have an aspect of novelty in a world characterized by pluralism, by the clashing of ideologies and by profound changes in mentality. You must help the Church to respond to these fundamental questions for the cultures of today: how is the message of the Church accessible to new cultures, to contemporary forms of understanding and of sensitivity? How can the Church of Christ make itself understood by the modern spirit, so proud of its achievements and at the same time so uneasy for the future of the human family? Who is Jesus Christ for the men and women of today?

Yes, the entire Church should ask itself these questions, in the spirit of what my predecessor Paul VI said after the Synod on evangelization: "What matters is to evangelize man's culture and cultures ... in the wide and rich sense which these terms have in Gaudium et Spes, always taking the person as one's starting-point and always coming back to the relationship of people among themselves and with God" (Evangelii Nuntiandi, n. 20). He then added: "The Kingdom which the Gospel proclaims is lived by men who are profoundly linked to a culture, and the building up of the Kingdom cannot avoid borrowing the elements of human culture or cultures" (ibid.).

It is, then, a complex but essential task: to help Christians to discern in the traits of their culture what can contribute to the appropriate expression of the Gospel message and to the building up of the Kingdom of God, and to disclose what is contrary to this. And in this way, the announcing of the Gospel to those of our contemporaries who do not as yet adhere to it will have a better chance of being realized through an authentic dialogue.

We cannot but evangelize: so many regions, so many cultural milieus remain still insensitive to the good news of Jesus Christ. I am thinking of the vast areas of the world still marginal to the Christian faith. But I am also thinking of the large cultural sectors in traditionally Christian countries which today seem indifferent - if not resistant - to the Gospel. I am speaking, of course, of appearances, for one must not prejudge the mystery of personal beliefs and the secret action of grace. The Church respects all cultures and imposes on no one her faith in Jesus Christ, but she invites all people of good will to promote a true civilization of love, founded on the evangelical values of brotherhoood, justice and dignity for all.

4. All this demands a new approach of cultures, attitudes, behaviours, aimed at in-depth dialogue with cultural centres and at rendering fruitful their meeting with the message of Christ. This work demands also on the part of responsible Christians a faith illumined by continual reflection confronted with the sources of the Church's message, and a continual spiritual discernment pursued in prayer.

The Pontifical Council for Culture, for its part, is therefore called to investigate the important questions raised by the challenges of our time for the Church's mission of evangelization. By study, by meetings, reflection groups, consultations, exchanges of information and experiences, by the collaboration of the correspondents who have agreed, in great numbers, to labour with you in various parts of the world, I earnestly urge you to illumine these new dimensions in the light of theological reflection, of experience and of the contribution of the human sciences.

Be sure that I will gladly support the work and the initiatives which will enable you to make the various agencies of the Church sensitive to these problems. And, as a pledge of the support which I desire to bring to your task, so useful to the Church, I impart to you, and also to all your collaborators and to your families, my special Apostolic Blessing.


top4. Changing times for human culture, 13 January 1986

Dear Brothers in the Episcopate, Dear Friends,

1. Once again you are faithfully attending the annual meeting of the Pontifical Council for Culture. Coming as you do from Africa, from North and Latin America, from Asia and Europe, your presence reminds us of the vast panorama of cultures throughout the world; some have already been made fruitful by Christ's message, and their fruitfulness endures. Others are still awaiting the light of Revelation, for every culture is open to the highest human aspirations, and capable of fusing with the Gospel to produce something new and creative.

Ours is a troubled century, and that fact is being impressed upon us daily; yet even now a new millennium is dawning, bearing new hope for humankind. The historical process of the inculturation of the Gospel and the evangelization of cultures is far from having exhausted all its latent energies. As new cultures arise, or go through the pangs of rebirth, they encounter the eternal newness of the Gospel. It is obvious that the emergence of new cultures calls for courage and intelligence on the part of all believers and of everyone of good will. Social and cultural change, political upheaval, ideological ferment, religious questionings, ethical probing, all show a world in gestation, in search of form and direction, organic wholeness, prophetic renewal. May we know how to draw fresh responses from the treasury of our hope.

Shaken by socio-political imbalance, scientific discoveries not fully under control, and technical inventions of incredible potential, people are confused as old ideologies fade away and old systems wear out. The new nations provoke the old-established societies, as if to arouse them from their lassitude. The young in search of an ideal are trying to give real meaning to the human adventure. Neither drugs nor violence, neither permissiveness nor nihilism can fill the emptiness of existence. Minds and hearts are seeking light to shine on them, love to bring them warmth. Our era reveals to us how deep is the spiritual hunger of the human mind, how immense its hope.

2. The recent Extraordinary Synod of Bishops, in which we had the grace of participating here in Rome, gave us a renewed awareness of these profound hopes of humanity and of the prophetic inspiration of the Second Vatican Council, 20 years ago. At the invitation of Pope John XXIII, father of this Council of modern times, as we are all its sons, we must bring the modern world into contact with the life-giving energies of the Gospel (cf. the Bull Humanae Salutis, Christmas 1961, announcing the Council.

Yes, we are at the beginning of a gigantic work of evangelization of the modern world, which is presented in new terms. The world has entered an era of profound turmoil, on account of the stupefying range of human inventions, which threaten to destroy humanity itself unless they are integrated into an ethical and spiritual vision. We are entering a new era of human culture, and Christians are faced with an immense challenge. Today we are in a better position to gauge the extent of Pope John XXIII's prophetic exhortation to banish the prophets of doom, and to put our hands courageously to the formidable task of renewing the world and its "encounter with the face of the risen Jesus ... shining through the whole Church to bring salvation, joy and light to the nations of the world" (Message Ecclesia Christi, Lumen Gentium, 11th September 1962).

My predecessor Paul VI took up this extremely important lead, and showed exactly how it could best be put into effect: the Council would work at building a bridge to the contemporary world (Opening Allocution of the Second Session, 28th September 1963). I myself decided to set up the Pontifical Council for Culture, for the very purpose of aiding and supporting this work (cf. my letter of 20th May 1982).

3. Since then, you have been wholeheartedly at work, and the Bulletin Church and Cultures gives a regular account, in French, English and Spanish, of your productive activities. There is the dialogue you are conducting with bishops, religious institutes, International Catholic Organisations, Universities; consultations which are already bearing fruit; and a network of Correspondents in all parts of the world. Initiatives are being encouraged throughout the Churches, sometimes on the level of a whole continent, as is shown by CELAM's recent decision to create a "Section for Culture", in order to give a new impetus to the Latin American Church in its mission of evangelizing culture according to the spirit of Evangelii Nuntiandi and of the pastoral option taken by Puebla. Each episcopal conference has been invited to set up an ad hoc body for the cultural apostolate, and a certain number have already begun work. You also continue, in liaison with other Departments of the Holy See, to follow attentively the activity of the international organizations and meetings concerned with culture, science and education, in order to bring them the Church's point of view.

I wholeheartedly rejoice in your Council's activity: one has only to look at the lengthy agenda for your current meeting at San Calisto to see how extensive it is. You will consider the Church's dialogue with cultures, in the light of the recent Synod of Bishops; collaboration with the Departments of the Roman Curia: faith and culture, education and culture, the cultural role of the Holy See in international organisations, conferences and research projects whose interesting results have already been published in various languages, in several continents. Other meetings now in preparation will take you successively to various parts of Europe and America; you will encounter ancient African and Asian civilisations; and the challenge of modern and classical values, the arts, and particularly Christian art, facing the emergence of a civilisation of the universal.

4. Dear friends, pursue this complex but necessary and urgent task; there is so much dormant energy, so much willingness waiting to be tapped. The Synod of Bishops committed us all to this with great zeal, by unequivocally placing inculturation at the heart of the Church's mission in the world: "Inculturation is different from a simple external adaptation, because it means the intimate transformation of authentic cultural values through their integration into Christianity and the establishment of Christianity in the various cultures" (Final Relatio, L'Osservatore Romano, English edition, 16 Dec. 1985).

The whole Church is already preparing the forthcoming Synod on the apostolate of the laity. You yourselves can vigorously involve the laity, especially the young, in the decisive dialogue of the Gospel with cultures. I rejoice in your active collaboration with the Pontifical Council for the Laity and with the Congregation for Catholic Education, with the aim of studying together new problems raised by the encounter between the Gospel and the world of education and culture. I know you will want to undertake many new projects corresponding to the mission that has been confided to you.

My good wishes accompany you in this demanding venture; my prayers accompany you, as does my support. With all my heart, I invoke upon you and your work the grace of the Lord Almighty, the sole inspiration of our humble service of the Church, by giving you a special Apostolic Blessing.


top5. A fresh approach to evangelizing people and cultures, 17 January 1987

Dear brothers in the Episcopate, Dear friends,

1. It is with a particular pleasure that I welcome the Pontifical Council for Culture, now for the fifth time. I give a most cordial welcome to each one of you personally; and in your persons I greet those entitled to represent the numerous and varied areas of culture in the world. I thank you for coming each year to the See of Peter for a fruitful discussion of the situations of culture and of cultures, in order to explore together the most appropriate paths for the meeting between the Church and the mentalities and aspirations of our epoch.

When I set up the Pontifical Council for Culture five years ago, my intention was to give a programme of common action to the will of the Second Vatican Council, which sought to promote the dialogue of salvation with persons and their milieux. In our meetings in past years, I encouraged you to find means to stimulate in all the Church a renewed drive to make the dialogue between the Gospel and cultures a visible reality. You were invited to pay particular attention to the most suitable organs to support this endeavour, which is both cultural and evangelical: the bishops and their collaborators, the religious Institutes and their initiatives, the Catholic international organizations and their cultural and apostolic projects. In harmony with the other bodies of the Holy See, your first goal is to study in depth, for the sake of the universal Church and the local Churches, what is meant by the evangelization of cultures in today's world. This is indeed an immense and complex task, but it is vitally important for the future mission of the Church.

2. Five years on, I wish to express to you my satisfaction at the work which you have been able to carry out. When one reads your bulletin Church and Cultures, which is published in several languages, it is clear that you have already accomplished an important task of consultation and information of the Episcopal Conferences, the religious Institutes, the Catholic international organizations, a great number of private and public centers and international bodies like UNESCO and the Council of Europe.

Many episcopal conferences have made a generous response, setting up new services to promote a more incisive dialogue with cultures. Religious have collaborated actively in an international consultation that shows their interest in the inculturation of their apostolic action and in the consolidation of the consecrated life within the evolving cultures. Catholic international organizations have also formed fruitful relationships with the Pontifical Council for Culture, in the service of the cultural and spiritual promotion of the men and women of today.

Thanks to the active cooperation of the members of the International Council, regional congresses have been organized on the various cultural problems that concern the Church: at Notre-Dame in the United States, at Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires, Munich, and Bangalore. Other international conferences are being prepared in Europe, in Nigeria and in Japan. I thank you for these concrete efforts and commitments. Your International Council thus takes on an effective meaning, which I am happy to emphasize.

As the constitution Regimini Ecclesiae requests, you are likewise concerned to promote a fruitful collaboration with the Departments of the Holy See. Inter alia, I think of your contribution to the document on sects and religious movements.

3. Besides this, you are working with the Congregation for Catholic Education and the Pontifical Council for the Laity in a project dealing with "the Church and university culture". Along with all the relevant bodies in the Church - bishops, religious, various organizations and lay persons - you seek to make the Church more present in the university milieux, through her direct apostolic activity and also through a more active promotion of the evangelical values within the cultures that are in process of formation in the universities. These problems merit all the efforts you can make, and I encourage you warmly to pursue this important task which you have undertaken in common with others. Many pastors await light and orientation, in an area that concerns countless Christian students and professors. The collaboration of all interested parties in this consultation on "the Church and university culture" will permit the whole Church to benefit from the experience gained by the initiatives of all parties and by the reflections in common on what has been learned.

I likewise express my good wishes for the collaboration which has already begun with the International Theological Commission, and I hope that it may produce fruitful results. Your joint research on faith and inculturation responds to an explicit request of the extraordinary Synod of Bishops, and it will be of great importance for the incarnation of the Gospel at the heart of the cultures of our times.

Dear friends, I wish to thank sincerely all those who dedicate themselves generously to the mission which I have entrusted to the Pontifical Council for Culture, for the good of the whole Church.

4. While I congratulate you on the tasks which you have carried out, I ask you to look to the future with great insight and hope. Permit me to suggest two principal orientations that should inspire your efforts, your research your initiatives and the co-operation of all those with whom you are connected.

On the one hand, I urge you once again to convince people of the urgency of an effective encounter between the Gospel and the living cultures. The gap between the Good News of Jesus Christ and whole zones of humanity continues to be immense and dramatic. Many cultural milieux remain hermetically sealed or hostile to the Gospel. Whole countries are subjected to cultural policies that seek to exclude the work of the Church, or to limit it seriously. Every sincere Christian suffers deeply to see the proclamation of the Good News fettered in this way. In the name of the cultural promotion of every man and every woman which has been proclaimed as an objective by international bodies - we must make our contemporaries understand that the Gospel of Christ is a source of progress and enrichment for all human beings. We do not damage any culture by freely offering it this message of salvation and liberation.

Together with every man and every woman of good will, we share a disinterested and unconditional love for every human person. Even with those who do not share our faith, we can find much room for collaboration with a view to the cultural progress of persons and groups. Today's cultures aspire ardently to peace and brotherhood, to dignity and justice, to liberty and solidarity. This is a sign of the times, assuredly providential; and twenty years on from the encyclical Populorum Progressio of my predecessor Paul VI, this must encourage us to find paths for a new solidarity among persons, spiritual families, and centres of reflection and of action. Do we have the courage to ask ourselves whether we Christians have given adequate realization to the cultural creativity requested by Gaudium et Spes, in order to hasten the effective encounter of the Church with the world of our time? Ought we not to be better at discernment, more inventive, more resolute in our undertakings of evangelization, and more open to indispensable collaboration in this vast domain of cultural action undertaken in the name of our faith?

5. This leads me to return, and to insist upon, what is equally a central objective in our work, and is the object of your reflection in common with the International Theological Commission: inculturation. I myself have touched on this in several of my recent apostolic journeys. For this newly-coined word disclosed a vital challenge for the Church, especially in countries with non-Christian traditions. When the Church enters into contact with cultures, she must welcome all that is compatible with the Gospel in these traditions of the peoples, in order to bring the riches of Christ to them and to be enriched herself by the manifold wisdom of the nations of the earth. You are aware that inculturation commits the Church to a path that is difficult, but necessary. Pastors, theologians and the specialists in the human sciences must also collaborate closely, so that this vital process may come about in a way that benefits both the evangelized and the evangelizers, in order to avoid any simplification or undue haste that would end in syncretism or a secular reduction of the proclamation of the Gospel. Carry out your research an these questions serenely and in depth, aware that your work will help many in the Church and not only in what are called "mission lands".

You are not dedicating yourselves to some abstract intellectual exercise, but to a reflection which directly serves pastoral work, including that carried out in the nations that have a Christian tradition: for in those nations there has gradually come into being a "culture" marked by indifference or lack of interest in religion. Together with all my brothers in the episcopate, I reaffirm urgently the necessity of mobilizing all the Church in a creative effort for a renewed evangelization of persons and cultures. It is only through a concerted effort that the Church will make herself able to bring the hope of Christ into today's cultures and mentalities. Let us discover the language that will touch the minds and hearts of so many men and women who aspire, perhaps without knowing it, to the peace of Christ and to his liberating message. This is a cultural and evangelical project of the first importance.

6. Do not let youselves be deterred by the difficulties inherent in such a mission: pursue it unceasingly, inspire the necessary collaboration, so that bishops, priests, religious, laity, cultural and educational organizations may become involved in this apostolic spirit of dialogue which the Second Vatican Council requested, and which was reaffirmed, so clearly, by the extraordinary Synod of 1985 and was put into action by initiatives such as that of the Day of Prayer for Peace at Assisi.

I encourage you particularly to continue your efforts to involve the laity in this task, for it is they who are at the heart of the cultures which characterize modern society. If the Gospel of Christ is to become the ferment capable of purifying and enriching the cultural orientations which will decide the future of the human family, this largely depends on the laity. Your contribution is of particular interest for the coming Synod of Bishops, which deals with the apostolate of the laity.

As a sign of my affection and my gratitude, and as a pledge of the grace of the Lord, I give my blessing to each one of you personally.


top6. The Gospel must bear fruit in every culture, 15 January 1988

Your Eminences, Dear Friends

1. It is a pleasure to receive you here on the occasion of the yearly meeting of the Pontifical Council for Culture. After an initial five-year period rich in achievements and promise, a new stage is beginning for your young Council and I am pleased to greet among you your newly-nominated members. North America and Latin America, Africa, Asia and Europe bear witness in your persons to the vitality and the diversity of cultures as well as to the presence of the Church in the vast domains where human activity unfolds. The power of the Gospel is at work among the greatest projects of civilization: philosophy and theology, literature and history, science and art, architecture and painting, poetry and singing, law, schools and universities. Dear friends, it is up to you both to be in the Church the active witnesses of today's manifestations of culture and to be visible and effective representatives of the Pontifical Council for Culture throughout the world.

2. The recent Synod for Bishops, dedicated to the vocation and the mission of the laity in the Church and in the world, has emphasized twenty years after the Second Vatican Council the urgency of forming the laity in order to make the gospel more present in the living fibre of cultures, in the surroundings which will form tomorrow's mentalities and inspire its actions: the family, school, university and means of social communications. Some of you have made a valuable contribution in emphasizing the importance of the work to be accomplished in opening intellectual and university circles to gospel values.

The work of the Synod has made us more aware that the challenge of all the baptized is to bear witness to their faith with intelligence and courage in such a way as to bring salvation and hope through the cultures of our time. I invite you anew to make our contemporaries better understand what it means to evangelize the world of culture in a concrete and vital manner. The task is complex and difficult, but my encouragement, support and prayer accompany you in this mission to which I attach a primary importance.

3. In order that the gospel may make fruitful the cultures of the world which are in the process of transformation, a renewed impulse must come from all the components of the Church, from the offices of the Holy See as well as from the episcopal conferences, from international Catholic organizations as well as from religious communities and secular institutes, from the laity engaged in the rich diversity of movements of the apostolate as well as in the heart of the institutions of secular society.

Your executive president has informed me of the projected meetings prepared long in advance which allow you gradually to enter into contact with the living realities of the Church across the various continents. I am thinking of the coming African Seminar, due to the initiative of Mrs Victoria Okoye, which will allow you to recognize, since Onitsha, the remarkable engagement on the part of African women for passing on faith and culture, for incarnating the values of the gospel in the coming generation which will be the Africa of the next millennium.

Within the framework of the Holy See's activity in international institutions, beginning with UNESCO and the Council of Europe, you have a specific contribution to make according to your own abilities in order to render more influential the presence of Christians and their organizations in the major meetings where the problems of education, science, communication and culture are debated. I strongly encourage your participation in the initiatives taken by the Roman Congregations concerned with carrying out these objectives which respond to the aspirations of our age, which is so sensitive to the realization of a united and fraternal culture.

4. At the end of the first five-year period, I have the pleasure of recognizing all those who have given of themselves unstintingly in order to create the Pontifical Council for Culture and to make it present, alive and active throughout the world. Dear Cardinal Garrone and members of the presidential committee, Cardinal Poupard and the executive committee, the international council, you have, all of you, worked without ceasing in order to realize the mandate which I entrusted to you on 20 May, 1982, as I instituted your Council. As witnessed by your Bulletin and your various publications, this new department of the Holy See has known how, in its own way, to set up in Rome itself and throughout the world an active network of correspondents and to set in motion a far-reaching action which is beginning to bear fruit. I am particularly pleased to emphasize the utility of your collaboration with the other organizations of the Holy See, with the episcopal conferences, international Catholic organizations and conferences of religious. Dear friends, with your new team, continue this fruitful co-operation in close union with the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, as I have already emphasized on many occasions.

I am grateful also for your collaboration with the International Theological Commission. The problems regarding faith and inculturation, which you have begun to explore together, certainly merit deeper study in order to light the way for a proper pastoral action with regard to culture.

5. The project "The Church and University Culture", carried on jointly with the Congregation for Catholic Education and the Pontifical Council for the Laity, can also become an efficient means of the Church's collaboration for the Christian advancement of a civilization of love and truth on the eve of the new millennium. The world of the university constitutes for the Church a privileged field for her work of evangelization and her presence in the cultural sphere. What human and religious values will characterize the university world of tomorrow? Who does not see the importance of these questions for the intellectual and moral health of the new generations? There is here a very complex problem which requires active co-operation on the part of all in the Church. I am also pleased by the study and the joint reflections which the Pontifical Council for Culture and the two above-mentioned Congregations have set up in collaboration with episcopal conferences, organizations of laity and institutions of religious in order that the Church's action in the university world may truly respond to the demands of our age.

6. In this Marian Year, may Our Lady be your guiding star and your model! In giving us her Son, Jesus, she has given us everything. In her person, human values have been assumed and transfigured in a joint mystery of interiority and transcendence. After her example, may your culture be the reflection of that which you have received and the crucible of that which you offer to the Church and to the world, namely, the witness that the kingdom announced by the gospel is lived out in your own culture!

With my best wishes for you and your families, I assure you of my prayer for the fruitfulness of your work upon which I invoke the abundance of divine grace as I give you my heartfelt Apostolic Blessing.


top7. Evangelizing cultures and inculturating the Gospel, 13 January 1989

Eminent Cardinals, Dear Friends,

1. I am happy to offer a most cordial welcome, this morning, to all of you who have come from various parts of the world to participate in the meeting of the Pontifical Council for Culture. This is the seventh consecutive year that I have the pleasure of receiving this Council. In the Constitution Pastor Bonus, in clarifying the tasks and the organization of the Roman Curia, I was anxious to confirm that "the Council fosters relations between the Holy See and the world of culture, especially encouraging dialogue with the various cultures of our times, so that human civilization may become more and more open to the Gospel and so that those who practice the sciences, letters and the arts may feel that the Church recognizes them as persons devoted to the service of the true, the good and the beautiful" (Art. 166).

Your annual session represents a high point in your common reflection and engagement for the concrete promotion of the meeting of the Church with all human cultures, in the spirit of the Second Vatican Council and of the Synods of Bishops. According to the mandate which I have entrusted to you, every year you conduct a general survey of the principal cultural trends which affect the milieus, the regions and the disciplines which you represent. In this way you pass on to the Pope and to the Holy See the tendencies and aspirations, the anxieties and hopes, the cultural needs of the human family, and you ask yourselves what the best way is for the Church to respond to the crucial questions posed by the contemporary spirit. The diagnosis that you supply on the state of present cultures is a great service to the Church, and I encourage you to continue to improve it constantly. Beyond your personal witness and experiences, you are called, in fact, together with other individuals and qualified groups, to a spiritual discernment of the cultural trends which affect the men and women of today. By way of meetings, research and publications, you are providing a new thrust within the Church for responding to the challenges which the evangelization of cultures and the inculturation of the Gospel represent. This discernment is a matter of some urgency if we are to be better able to understand present mentalities, to discover therein the thirst for truth and love which only Jesus can fully satisfy, and to find the ways for a new evangelization through an authentic apostolate of culture.

2. By looking at the world from a universal point of view, you are better able to grasp the apostolic significance of your labours and to find a solid motivation for pursuing your mission. Through this work of evangelical discernment, the Church has but one objective: to proclaim better to every conscience and to every culture the Good News of salvation in Jesus Christ - inasmuch as all human reality, individual and social, has been liberated through Christ, individuals as well as human activities, of which culture is the most eminent and the most incarnated expression.

The salvific action of the Church with cultures is exercised in the first place through the mediation of individuals, families and educators. Thus an adequate formation is indispensable to help Christians learn to show clearly how the Gospel leaven has the power to purify and elevate the modes of thought, judgement and action which constitute a specific culture. Jesus Christ, our Saviour, offers his light and hope to all those men and women who cultivate the sciences, the arts, letters and the numerous fields developed by modern culture. All the sons and daughters of the Church should then be aware of their mission and discover how the dynamism of the Gospel can penetrate and regenerate the dominant mentalities and values which inspire each of the cultures as well as the opinions and the attitudes which flow from them. Everyone in the Church, through prayer and meditation, will be able to carry the light of the Gospel and radiate its ethical and spiritual ideals. In this way, through this patient work of gestation, humble and hidden though it is, the fruits of Redemption will gradually penetrate cultures and will enable them to open themselves fully to the riches of the grace of Christ.

3. The Pontifical Council for Culture is already engaged in an effort which stimulates the Church in this great modern undertaking, the evangelization of cultures and the cultural advancement of all human beings. You have managed to establish a promising collaboration with the Episcopal Conferences, with the international Catholic organizations, with Religious Institutes, with the Catholic associations and movements, with cultural and university centres. In close and fruitful collaboration with them, you have held meetings in various parts of the world, and noteworthy results have already been achieved, to which a number of publications as well as your Bulletin attest.

I observe too that your work is developing in connection with several Departments of the Holy See, in such a way as to render more visible the cultural dimension which is an important component of the apostolic mission of the Roman Curia.

4. Among your current projects, two initiatives merit special attention, first of all because of their own importance, and also because they have been conducted in collaboration with various departments of the Holy See, in the spirit of the reform of Roman Curia.

With satisfaction I would first point to the study on the Church and university culture, which you are pursuing with the Episcopal Conferences, in collaboration with the Congregation for Catholic Education and the Pontifical Council for the Laity. You have already published a synthesis which illustrates the significant tendencies and the spiritual needs of the university milieus, as well as the new aspects of the university apostolate for the local Churches. I urge you to continue this common reflection which will, I am sure, give rise to concrete recommendations and beneficial exchanges of apostolic experiences. The Church finds in the university world a privileged place for dialogue with the trends of spirit and styles of thought which will distinguish tomorrow's culture. Christian hope should go to meet the new aspirations of consciences and animate the minds of university youth who will very soon be in charge of so many responsibilities, "so that human civilization may become more and more open to the Gospel".

With all my heart I encourage this university apostolate which gives students the concrete possibility of reflecting on their faith at an intellectual level paralleling their scientific and humanistic development in the other disciplines, and which helps them to express that faith in believing and praying communities.

5. Finally, I wish to underline the active role which the Pontifical Council for Culture has played in the work of the International Theological Commission on the subject of faith and inculturation. You participated closely in the drawing up of the document which has just been prepared under this title and which will further our understanding of the biblical, historical, anthropological, ecclesial and missionary significance of the inculturation of the Christian faith. The stakes here are decisive for the Church's activity, both within the various traditional cultures and with the complex forms of modern culture. Your responsibility is henceforth to translate these theological guidelines into concrete programmes of cultural apostolate, and I am delighted that a number of episcopal conferences, notably in Latin America and in Africa, intend to devote themselves to this. I encourage these pastoral experiments and hope that their fruits may be shared with the whole Church.

6. I have often had occasion to say, but I would like once more to do so, that it is through culture that man lives a truly human life. The fundamental link of the message of Christ and the Church with the human person in his or her humanity helps develop culture at its most intimate foundation. This means that the cultural upheavals of our times invite us to return to the essentials and to rediscover the fundamental concern which is man in all his political and social dimensions, to be sure, but the cultural, moral and spiritual ones as well. Indeed, it is nothing less than the very future of humanity that is at stake. To inculturate the Gospel is not to bring it back to the ephemeral, and to reduce it to the superficial which influence the changing current situation. On the contrary, it is with full spiritual courage that we insert the force of the Gospel leaven, and its newness, which is younger than anything modern, into the very heart of the profound disturbances of our time, to give life to new modes of thinking, acting and living. It is fidelity to the covenant with eternal wisdom which is the ceaselessly self-renewing source of new cultures. Individuals who have received the newness of the Gospel appropriate and interiorize it in such a way as to re-express it in their daily lives, in accordance with their particular genius. In this way, the inculturation of the Gospel goes hand in hand with the renewal of cultures and thus promotes them in the Church as well as in the State.

7. In conclusion, I can only thank God for the work of apostolic discernment and evangelical inculturation which your Council contributes to the Church's service. Through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God and of the Church, I invoke upon your work the light and the strength of the Holy Spirit.

All my best wishes go with you, beginning with you, Your Eminences: Cardinal Paul Poupard, whom I have asked to replace dear Cardinal Garrone as President of the Council; Cardinal Eugenio de Araujo Sales, who continues to enable you to benefit from his experience; and Cardinal Hyacinthe Thiandoum, who regrets not having been able to participate in this assembly. I assure all members of the International Council, as well as your collaborators at Palazzo San Calisto, a place in my prayers.

As a pledge of my affection for you, your families, and for all those who are the subject of your concern, I cordially give you my Apostolic Blessing.


top8. The world's changing cultural horizon, 12 January 1990

Your Eminences, Dear Friends,

1. I am happy to welcome you here. Together with Cardinal Paul Poupard and his collaborators, you are once again conveying to the Holy See echoes of the great cultural changes that are shaking the world. You thereby assist the Church to discern better the signs of the times and the new ways of inculturating the Gospel and evangelizing cultures. In this regard, the year which has just come to an end was rich in exceptional events which rightly hold our attention in this last decade of our millennium.

A common sentiment seems to dominate the great human family today. Everyone wonders what future to construct in peace and solidarity, in this transition from one cultural era to another. The great ideologies have shown their bankruptcy before the harsh trail of events. Self-styled scientific systems of social renewal, indeed of human self-redemption, myths of revolutionary fulfilment of man have been revealed to the eyes of the entire world for what they were: tragic utopias which entailed a regression without precedent in the tormented history of humanity. In the midst of their brothers and sisters, the heroic resistance of Christian communities against inhuman totalitarianism has aroused admiration. The world of today is rediscovering that, far from being the opium of the people, faith in Christ is the best guarantee and the stimulus of their liberty.

2. Walls have crumbled. Borders have opened. However, enormous barriers still stand between the hopes of justice and their realization, between wealth and wretched poverty, while rivalries are reborn as long as the struggle to possess overrides the respect for the person. An earthly messianism has crumbled and the thirst for a new justice is springing up in the world. A great hope has been born of freedom, responsibility, solidarity, spirituality. Everyone is calling for a new fully human civilization in this privileged hour in which we are living. This immense hope of humanity must not be disappointed: we all have to respond to the expectations of a new human culture. This task requires your reflection and calls for your proposals. There is no lack of new risks of deception and disappointment. Secular ethics has tasted its limits and has proved impotent before the formidable experiments which are being conducted on human beings viewed as mere laboratory objects. The person feels radically threatened in the face of policies which arbitrarily decide over the right to life or the moment of death, while the laws of the economic system weigh heavily on family life. Science manifests its inability to answer the great questions of the meaning of life, love, society, and death. Statesmen themselves seem to hesitate on the paths to be taken to construct this world of brotherhood and solidarity which all our contemporaries are calling for, both within nations and at the level of the continents.

It is the task of women and men of culture to think through this future in the light of the Christian faith which inspires them. Tomorrow's society will have to be different, in a world which no longer tolerates inhuman governmental structures. From East to West, from North to South, the movement of history is calling into question an order that rested primarily on force and fear. This openness towards a new equilibrium requires wise reflection and daring foresight.

3. The whole of Europe is wondering about its future, while the collapse of totalitarian systems calls for a profound renewal of politics and is causing a vigorous return of the spiritual aspirations of peoples. Europe is being forced to seek to redefine its identity beyond political systems and military alliances. It is rediscovering itself as a continent of culture, a land watered by the Christian faith of two thousand years and at the same time nourished by a secular humanism with contradictory cross currents. In this moment of crisis, Europe might be tempted to turn in on itself, momentarily forgetting the bonds that unite it to the vast world. But great voices, from East to West, are inviting it to draw on the full dimensions of its historic vocation in this hour which is at once dramatic and imposing. It is your job, in your own way, to help it rediscover its roots and build its future, measuring up to its ideal and generosity. By their enthusiasm the young people whom I met with joy on the paths of Santiago de Compostela revealed that this ideal was alive in them.

4. On the other shore of the Mediterranean is Africa; scarred by trouble and strife, and often by famine, it is drawing closer to us, while vigorously proclaiming its own identity and its specific place in the concert of nations. The coming Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops, in communion with the universal Church, will permit this continent of the future to show how in our times the Gospel is an incomparable leaven of culture in the integral development in solidarity of individuals and peoples. At the heart of the Church, Africa can create cultures rooted in thousands of years of ancestral wisdom and renewed by the strength of the Gospel leaven which the Christian communities bring.

5. Latin America is preparing to celebrate with fervour the fifth centenary of its evangelization. The Fourth General Conference of its bishops has already been announced for 1992; it will be directed entirely towards a new stage of evangelization of its peoples and cultures, and will give a new impulse to this continent of hope. Between anguish and hope, the future of the society and of the Church is here at stake, notably among the poor. Between South America, engaged in a process of renewal, and North America, rich in incomparable economic potential, Central America intends to live its vocation at the confluence and crucible of cultures. Christians, who are in the great majority in the entire American continent, have for this reason a cultural and spiritual vocation that is proportionate to their enormous opportunities. The Pontifical Council for Culture will be able, for its part, to help them assume their full responsibility in this promising process, overcoming the temptations to egoism and to narcissistic nationalism. I am happy that new members of your Council are starting to contribute to the fulfilment of this indispensable task.

6. The contrasts which are beginning to appear along the vast shores of the Pacific are attracting the attention of the whole world. An unprecedented economic growth is giving this geographical area a new role in human history, with enormous

clout in international affairs. At the same time, in many regions, entire populations are struggling to free themselves from extreme and inhuman poverty. China is searching for a new destiny that will measure up to its millenary culture. There is no doubt that its human riches and its desire for a renewed communion with modern cultures will enable it to contribute new energies to this world. I await the day when you will be able to make use of its invaluable contribution to enrich your dialogue between cultures and the Gospel.

7. Dear Friends, these are the themes that are nourishing your reflections at the close of a century which has experienced too much horror and terror, and which once again aspires to a fully human culture.

If the future is uncertain, one certitude remains in our minds. This future will be what people make of it, with their responsible freedom, sustained by the grace of God. For us Christians, the human being whom we wish to help to grow at the heart of all the cultures is a person of incomparable dignity, an image and likeness of God, of that God who took on a human countenance in Jesus Christ. Man can seem hesitant today, at times hindered by his own past, anxious about his future, but it is also true that a new person is emerging with a new stature on the world scene. His profound aspiration is to affirm himself in liberty, to move forward with responsibility, to act on behalf of solidarity. At this crossroads of history in search of hope, the Church brings him the ever new sap of the Gospel, creator of culture, fountain of humanity and at the same time, promise of eternity. Its secret is Love. This is the primordial need of every human culture. The name of this Love is Jesus, Son of Mary. Dear friends, bring him, as she did, with confidence, to all the paths of mankind, to the heart of the new cultures which we have to construct in people. Be convinced of this: the strength of the Gospel is capable of transforming the cultures of our times by its leaven of justice and of charity in truth and solidarity. Faith which becomes culture is the source of hope. Strong in this hope and happy to see you thus at work, I ask the Lord to bless you.


top9. Letting the Gospel take root in every culture, 10 January 1992

Your Eminences, Dear Friends,

1. I receive you with joy and extend my greetings of welcome. I am happy to greet you and to express my appreciation for your dedication to the Church and her mission of evangelization. I thank you for the expertise which you put at the service of the Holy See, under the leadership of Cardinal Paul Poupard, together with Cardinals Eugenio de Arujo Sales and Hyacinthe Thiandoum of the Executive Committee, helped by collaborators who guarantee quality work here in Rome. Some months from now, the Pontifical Council for Culture, one of the newest dicasteries of the Roman Curia, will celebrate its 10th anniversary. During this first decade, you have shown through your work that culture is a constitutive element of the life of Christian communities, as of every society that is truly human. Following the guidelines given on 20 May 1982 in the Letter of foundation, which were confirmed in the Apostolic Constitution Pastor bonus (articles 166-168), here you are, freely engaged in reflection and in action.

2. You have progressively developed a fruitful collaboration with the different dicasteries of the Roman Curia and with many organizations, such as the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences and the Pontifical Academy of Sciences. I wish that your collaboration with the local Churches will intensify in order to promote appropriate initiatives to spur on the evangelization of culture and the inculturation of the faith. Your bulletin, "Church and Cultures", radiates the light of the numerous and varied accomplishments of international importance that you have attained. You collaborate with international Catholic organizations, with Unesco and with the Council of Europe. You have participated in numerous exhibitions - and have also sponsored some - and have developed expert reflections on the means of social communication, the arts, publications, Catholic universities, the role of women in cultural development, the inculturation of the faith in Africa and Asia, the evangelization of America and the building of the new Europe.

3. For several years a new Europe has been taking shape, through darkness and light, through joy and pain. The collapse of ideological and authoritarian walls has caused joy and a reawakening of great hope, but already other walls once again divide the continent. Because of this, I am grateful to you for having organized, at my request and in preparation for the Special Assembly for Europe of the Synod of Bishops, the pre-Synodal Symposium, Christianity and Culture in Europe: Cultural Memory, Present Consciousness, Future Projects. You have helped the Bishops, and with them the entire Church, to revive our Christian memory of the millennia and to better discern the cultural foundations for the rebirth of a spiritually reunited Europe, in which we want to be "witnesses of Christ who has set us free" (cf. Gal 5:1).

On the eve of the Third Millennium, the apostolic mission of the Church commits her to a new evangelization in which culture assumes fundamental importance. This was underlined by the Fathers of the recent Synod: the number of Christians is increasing, but at the same time, the pressures of a culture without spiritual roots is growing. De-christianization has generated societies which lack a reference to God. The demise of atheistic Marxism-Leninism, the system of political totalitarianism in Europe, is far from resolving the tragedies that this system has caused in the last 75 years. How many have been affected in one way or another by this totalitarian system: its leaders, its supporters, as well as its staunch adversaries, have become its victims. Those who sacrificed their families, their energy and their dignity for a communist utopia are beginning to realize they have been dragged into a lie that has very deeply hurt human nature. Others have found freedom, for which they have not been prepared, and the use of this freedom remains hypothetical, since they live in precarious political, social and economic conditions and are experiencing a confused cultural situation, with a violent reawakening of nationalist rivalry.

At the conclusion of the Pre-Synodal Symposium you asked: To what and to whom will those whose utopian hopes have recently disappeared turn? The spiritual void that threatens society is above all a cultural void and it is the moral conscience, renewed by the Gospel of Christ, which can truly fill it. Only then, in creative fidelity to its own heritage bequeathed by the past and ever alive, will Europe be able to face the future with plans that will be a real encounter between the Word of Life and culture in search of love and truth for the human person. I take the opportunity which has been offered me today to express again to all those who helped organize this Symposium my gratitude for their collaboration in the Synod's work.

4. 1992 marks the fifth centenary of the evangelization of America. I have especially wanted "Christian culture" to be one of the major focal points of this anniversary, in which the Church will truly proclaim the Gospel of Christ to people, to the extent that she speaks to each person in his culture and that the faith of Christians shows its ability to enrich developing cultures, bearers of hope for the future. Nearly half the world's Catholics are in Latin America. The challenge of the new evangelization is very closely linked to a renewed dialogue between culture and faith. For this reason, the Pontifical Council for Culture, together with CELAM, will continue to offer its experience to Episcopal Conferences that request help along these lines.

5. The forthcoming Synod of Bishops for Africa will give central importance to the great challenge of implanting the Gospel in African cultures. Already the preparatory documents are very closely studying the relationship between evangelization and inculturation. For more than a century missionaries have generously given their energy and have often even sacrificed their lives so that the saving Gospel might reach Africa at the very heart of its being. Inculturation is a slow process that covers all the dimensions of missionary life. An overall look at humanity shows us that this mission is still in its initial phase and that we must devote all our efforts to its service (cf Redemptoris missio, ns. 52 and 1). On the eve of this Synod, threatened by syncretism and sects, the Churches of Africa will find a new impulse to proclaim the Gospel and to accept it through their culture, within the framework of catechesis, the formation of priests and catechists, liturgy and the life of Christian communities. All this needs time: every process of authentic inculturation of the faith is an act of "tradition", which must find its inspiration and its norms in the one Tradition. This presupposes a theological and anthropological study of the message of redemption and at the same time a living and irreplaceable witness of Christian communities which are happy to share their ardent love for Christ.

6. An urgent task awaits you: to re-establish the bonds which have been strained and sometimes broken between the cultural values of our time and their lasting, Christian foundation. The political changes, the economic upheavals and the cultural changes have contributed greatly to this painful but clear moral awakening. After decades of totalitarian oppression men and women offer agonizing witness: it is to their moral conscience, guardian of their deepest identity, that they owe their personal survival. Today there are many young and not so young people in industrialized nations who in every way cry out their discontent that what they "have" suffocates what they "are", while many others do not "have" what they need merely "to be". Everywhere people are demanding respect for their culture and their right to a fully human life. It is therefore through culture that the saying of Pascal is verified "Man surpasses man, infinitely".

7. A new cultural situation results especially from the development of science and technology. Aware of the renewed reflection that this demands from the Church, you are the inspiration for a Symposium in Tokyo on the theme, "Science, technology and spiritual values. An Asian approach to modernization"; and another right here in the Vatican in collaboration with the Pontifical Academy of Sciences on the theme, "Science in the context of human culture". The fragmentation of knowledge, as well as its technological application, makes it more difficult to see the human person organically and harmoniously in his ontological unity. The Church is no stranger to scientific culture; rather, she rejoices at discoveries and technology which help improve the conditions and quality of life of our contemporaries. The Church tirelessly recalls the unique character and the dignity of the human being against every temptation to abuse the power that technological progress offers. I hope that you will continue the dialogue that was begun in recent years with the representatives of scientific culture, the exact sciences and the behavioural sciences. Scientific and technological progress calls for a renewed conscience and moral commitment at the heart of culture to make it more human, so that people of every culture can equitably benefit from it, in a lasting search for solidarity.

8. The fundamental aspirations of man are laden with meaning. They express in various and sometimes confusing ways the vocation "to be" written by God in the heart of every person. Amid the uncertainties and anxiety of our time, your mission calls you to offer the best of yourselves to develop an authentic culture of hope, founded on the revelation and salvation of Jesus Christ. Freedom is fully exercised only through the acceptance of the truth and love which God offers to every person. For Christians this is an immense challenge to witness to the love of Jesus Christ who has set us free, the source and the fulfilment of every culture.

9. The challenge of the 21st century is to humanize society and its institutions through the Gospel; to restore to the family, to cities and to villages a soul worthy of the human person, created in the image and likeness of God. The Church can count on men and women of culture to help peoples rediscover their memory, to revive their consciences and to prepare their future. The Christian leaven will enrich living cultures and their values and bring them to full flower. In this way, hearts will be penetrated and cultures renewed by Christ, the Way, the Truth and the Life (cf. Jn 14:6) who "has brought complete newness by bringing himself", as Irenaeus of Lyons wrote (Adv. Haer., IV, 34, I). This shows the importance of education and the need for teachers who are authentic educators. This also means that Christian researchers and scholars are necessary, whose scientific ability is recognized and appreciated, in order to give meaning to the discoveries of science and the inventions of technology. The world has need of priests, religious and laity who are seriously formed by the knowledge of the Church's doctrinal heritage, rich in its bimillennary cultural patrimony, an ever fruitful source for artists and poets who are able to help the people of God to live the inexhaustible mystery of Christ, celebrated in beauty, meditated in prayer and incarnated in holiness.

10. Your Eminences, dear friends, may this meeting with the Successor of Peter confirm you in the awareness of your mission. Culture is of man, by man and for man. The vocation of the Pontifical Council for Culture, your vocation, in this turn of the century and of the millennium, is that of creating a new culture of love and of hope inspired by the truth that frees us in Christ Jesus. This is the goal of inculturation, this is the priority for the new evangelization. The rooting of the Gospel within cultures is a requirement for missionary activity, as I recently recalled in the Encyclical Redemptoris missio. Be its authentic artisans in deep communion with the Holy See and with the entire Church, within the local Churches, under the guidance of their Pastors.

With my warm greetings to you and your loved ones, I assure you of my gratitude and my prayers for the fruitfulness of your work. As a sign of my affection, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing.


top10. The new PCC's tasks: dialogue with non-believers and the inculturation of faith, 18 March 1994

Your Eminences, Dear Brothers in the Episcopate, Dear Friends,

1. I welcome You this morning with joy, members, counsellors and co-workers of the Pontifical Council for Culture. You have gathered under the presidency of Cardinal Paul Poupard for the first plenary session of the dicastery in its present form, after the merging of the former Pontifical Councils for Dialogue with Non-Believers and for Culture prescribed by the Motu Proprio Inde a Pontificatus of 25 March 1993.

You know that from the beginning of my Pontificate I have insisted on the crucial significance of the links between the Church and culture. In my letter on the occasion of the foundation of the Pontifical Council for Culture, I recalled: "a faith that does not become culture is not fully accepted, not entirely thought out, not faithfully lived" (cf. Address to the Italian National Congress of the Ecclesial Movement for Cultural Commitment, 16 January 1982; cf. L'Osservatore Romano, English edition, 28 June 1982, p. 7).

Two points should be made: most of the countries with a Christian tradition are experiencing a serious rift between the Gospel message and large areas of their culture, while an acute problem in the young Churches is the relationships between local cultures and the Gospel. This situation already points the way ahead for your task of evangelizing cultures and inculturating faith. I should like to clarify a few points which I consider particularly important.

2. The phenomenon of non-belief, together with its practical consequences - the secularization of social and private life, religious indifference or even the unequivocal rejection of all religion - remains one of the most urgent matters for your reflection and your pastoral concern. It would be appropriate to seek its historical, cultural, social and intellectual causes, and at the same time to promote a respectful and open dialogue with those who do not believe in God or who profess no religion; organizing meetings and exchanges with them, as you have done in the past, cannot but be productive.

3. The inculturation of the faith is the other major task of your Dicastery. Specialized research centres will help you to carry it out. But it must not be forgotten that this "must involve the whole people of God, and not a few experts, since the people reflect the authentic sensus fidei" (Redemptoris missio, it. 54). Through a lengthy process of reflection the Church gradually becomes aware of all the wealth of the deposit of faith through the life of God's people: the process of inculturation is a transition from implicit lived experience to explicit consciousness. Similarly, baptized persons, who live Christ's mystery in the Holy Spirit under the guidance of their pastors, are led little by little to discern within the various cultures those elements that are compatible with the Catholic faith and to reject others. This slow maturing process demands great patience and wisdom, great openness of heart, an informed sense of Tradition and a healthy apostolic daring, like that of the Apostles, the Fathers and the Doctors of the Church.

4. In creating the Pontifical Council for Culture, it was my intention to give "the whole Church a common impulse in the continuously renewed encounter between the salvific message of the Gospel and the multiplicity of cultures". I also gave it the mandate "to become a participant in the cultural concerns which the departments of the Holy See encounter in the evangelization of cultures, and to ensure co-operation between the cultural institutions of the Holy See" (Letter, 20 May 1982, L'Osservatore Romano English ed., 28 June 1982, p. 7). In this perspective I commissioned you to oversee and co-ordinate the activity of the Pontifical Academies, in conformity with their aims and statutes, and to remain in regular contact with the Pontifical Commission for the Cultural Heritage of the Church, "to assure a harmony of purpose and a fruitful mutual co-operation" (Motu proprio Inde a Pontificatus, art. 4, III, 25 March 1993; L'Osservatore Romano English ed. 12 May 1993, p. 3)).

5. In order to accomplish your task better, you are called to establish closer links with the Episcopal Conferences and especially with the cultural commissions which should exist within all the Conferences, as you have recently requested. These commissions are meant to promote Christian culture in the different countries and to dialogue with cultures that are strangers to Christianity. The many Catholic cultural centres throughout the world, whose work you support and seek to spread, are certainly privileged institutions for the promotion of Christian culture and dialogue with non-Christian cultural environments. In this regard, the first international meeting which you have just organized at Chantilly bodes well for further fruitful exchanges.

6. On the same lines, you co-operate with International Catholic Organizations, especially those that bring intellectuals, scientists and artists together, and undertake "appropriate initiatives concerning the dialogue between faith and cultures, and intercultural dialogue" (cf. Motu proprio Inde a Pontificatus, art. 3).

In addition, you follow the policy and the cultural activity of governments and international organizations, such as UNESCO, the Council of Europe's Council for Cultural Co-operation and other bodies, in your concern to give a fully human dimension to their cultural policies.

7. Your intervention, whether direct or indirect in the areas where the great policies and thought of the third millennium are forged, aims at giving a new impulse to Christian contributions in the field of culture, which has its place in the contemporary world as a whole. In this vast enterprise, as urgent as it is necessary, you are to continue a dialogue that appears very promising, with the representatives of agnostic trends or with nonbelievers, whether their inspiration is derived from ancient civilizations or from more recent intellectual endeavours.

8. Christianity "is a creator of culture in its very foundation" (Speech to UNESCO, 2 June 1980, n. 10; L'Osservatore Romano English edition, 23 June -1980, p. 10). In the Christian world, a truly prestigious culture has flourished throughout the centuries, as much in the area of literature and philosophy as in the sciences and the arts. The very concept of beauty in ancient Europe is largely the result of the Christian culture of its peoples, and its landscape reflects this inspiration. The centre around which this culture has developed is the heart of our faith, the eucharistic mystery. Cathedrals, humble country churches, religious music, architecture, sculpture and painting all radiate the mystery of the verum Corpus, natum de Maria Virgine, towards which everything converges in a movement of wonder. As for music, I am glad to commemorate Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina this year, on the occasion of the fourth centenary of his death. It would seem that, after a troubled period, the Church regained a voice made peaceful through contemplation of the Eucharistic mystery, like the calm breathing of a soul that knows it is loved by God.

Christian culture admirably reflects man's relationship with God, made new in the redemption. It opens us to the contemplation of the Lord, true God and true man. This culture is enhanced by the love that Christ pours into our hearts (cf. Rom 5:5) and by the experience of disciples called to emulate their Master. Such sources have given rise to an intense awareness of the meaning of life, a strength of character that blossoms in the heart of Christian families and a sense of finesse unknown in the past. Grace awakens, frees, purifies, orders and expands the creative powers of man. While it invites asceticism and renunciation, it does so in order to free the heart, a freedom eminently conducive to artistic creation as well as to thought and action based on truth.

9. In this culture, therefore, the influence of the saints is decisive: through the light that they emanate, through their inner freedom, through the power of their personality, they have made a mark on the artistic thought and expression of entire periods of our history. It is enough to mention St. Francis of Assisi. He had a poet's temperament, something which is amply confirmed by his words, his attitude, his innate sense of symbolic gesture. Although his concerns were far removed from the world of literature, he was, nevertheless, the creator of a new culture, both in thought and in art. A St Bonaventure or a Giotto could not have developed had it not been for him.

This, dear friends, is where the true requirements of Christian culture dwell. This marvellous creation of man can flow only from contemplating the mystery of Christ and from listening to his word, put into practice with total sincerity and unreserved commitment, following the example of the Virgin Mary. Faith frees thought and opens new horizons to the language of poetry and literature, to philosophy, to theology, and to other forms of creativity proper to the human genius.

You are called to develop and to promote this culture: some of you will attend to dialogue with nonbelievers, while others will search for new expressions of Christian life, all through a more vigorous cultural presence of the Church in this world which is seeking beauty and truth, unity and love.

My Apostolic Blessing and my affectionate gratitude, accompany you as you carry out these beautiful, noble and necessary tasks.


top12. The Gospel is good news for cultures, 14 March 1997

Your Eminences, Dear Brothers in the Episcopate, Dear Friends,

1. I welcome you with joy this morning at the end of your plenary session. I thank your President, Cardinal Paul Poupard, for recalling the spirit in which your work has been conducted. You reflected on the question of how to help the Church ensure a stronger presence of the Gospel at the heart of cultures, as the new Millennium approaches.

This meeting gives me an opportunity to say again to you: "'The synthesis between culture and faith is not just a demand of culture, but also of faith" (Letter Establishing the Pontifical Council for Culture, 20 May 1982). This is what Christians faithful to the Gospel have achieved in the most varied cultural situations in the course of two Millennia. The Church has frequently put down roots among peoples whose culture she penetrates and moulds according to Gospel principles.

Faith in Christ who became incarnate in history does not only transform individuals inwardly, but also regenerates people and their cultures. Thus at the end of antiquity, Christians, who lived in a culture to which they were greatly indebted, transformed it from within and instilled a new spirit in it. When this culture was threatened, the Church - with Athanasius, John Chrysostom, Ambrose, Augustine, Gregory the Great and many others - passed on the heritage of Jerusalem, Athens and Rome to give birth to an authentic Christian civilization. Despite the imperfections inherent in any human achievement, this brought about a successful synthesis between faith and culture.

2. In our day, this synthesis is often lacking and the rupture between the Gospel and culture is "without a doubt the drama of our time" (Paul VI, Evangelii nuntiandi, n. 20). This is a tragedy for the faith because, in a society where Christianity seems absent from social life and faith is relegated to the private sphere, access to religious values becomes more difficult, especially for the poor and the young or, in other words, for the vast majority of people who are unconsciously becoming secularized under pressure from the models of thought and action spread by the prevailing culture. The absence of a culture to support them prevents the young from living it to the full.

This situation is also a tragedy for culture, which is undergoing a deep crisis because of the rupture with faith. The chief symptom of this crisis is the feeling of anxiety which comes from the awareness of finitude in a world without God, where one makes the self an absolute, and earthly affairs the only values of life. In a culture without transcendence, man succumbs to the lure of money and power, pleasure and success. He also encounters the dissatisfaction caused by materialism, the loss of the meaning of moral values and concern about the future.

3. But at the heart of this disillusionment there remains a thirst for the absolute, a desire for goodness, a hunger for truth, a need for personal fulfilment. This shows the breadth of the Pontifical Council for Culture's task: to help the Church achieve a new synthesis of faith and culture for the greatest benefit of all. As this century draws to a close, it is essential to reaffirm the fruitfulness of faith for the development of a culture. Only a faith that is the source of radical spiritual decisions can have an effect on an era's culture. Thus the attitude of St Benedict, the Roman patrician who left behind a society in decline and withdrew in solitude, asceticism and prayer, was decisive for the growth of Christian civilization.

4. In its approach to cultures, Christianity presents the message of salvation received by the Apostles and the first disciples, reflected on and deepened by the Fathers of the Church and the theologians, lived by the Christian people, especially the saints, and expressed by its great theological, philosophical, literary and artistic geniuses. We must proclaim this message to our contemporaries in all its richness and beauty.

To do this, each particular Church must have a cultural plan, as is already the case in some countries. During this Plenary assembly, you devoted considerable time to examining not only the challenges but also the demands of an authentic pastoral approach to culture, which is crucial for the new evangelization. Coming from various cultural backgrounds, you inform the Holy See of the expectations of the local Churches and the reports of your Christian communities.

Among the tasks incumbent on you I stress certain points that require the greatest attention from your Council, such as the foundation of Catholic cultural centres or a presence in the world of the media and science, in order to transmit Christianity's cultural heritage. In all these efforts be particularly close to young people and artists.

5. Faith in Christ gives cultures a new dimension, that of hope in God's kingdom. It is the vocation of Christians to instil in the heart of cultures this hope for a new earth and a new heaven. For when hope fades, cultures die. Far from threatening or impoverishing cultures, the Gospel increases their joy and beauty, freedom and meaning, truth and goodness.

We are all called to pass on this message by words which proclaim it, a life which witnesses to it, a culture which radiates it. For the Gospel brings culture to its perfection, and authentic culture is open to the Gospel. The task of uniting them will involve constant commitment. I established the Pontifical Council for Culture to help the Church promote the saving interchange in which the inculturation of the Gospel goes hand in hand with the evangelization of cultures. May God help you accomplish your exciting mission!

As I commend the future of the Pontifical Council for Culture and that of all its members to Mary, Mother of the Church and Christ's first teacher, I cordially grant you my Apostolic Blessing.


top 13. To the Pontifical Commission for the Cultural Heritage of the Church, 25 September 1997

Your Eminences,
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and the Priesthood,
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

1. I am pleased to convey my greetings to you on the occasion of the second plenary assembly of the Pontifical Commission for the Cultural Heritage of the Church. I thank you for your dedicated work and I am particularly grateful to your President, Archbishop Francesco Marchisano, for having expressed your common sentiments. Your group has recently been enriched by new, well-qualified members, in order to be more representative of the Church’s universality and the diversity of cultures, through whose artistic expressions a manifold hymn of praise to God, who revealed himself in Jesus Christ, can certainly be raised. An affectionate welcome to you all.

The theme of your meeting is of great interest: "The Cultural Heritage of the Church in Relation to Preparations for the Jubilee". As I wrote in Tertio millennio adveniente, in view of the Jubilee the Church is invited to reconsider the way she has taken during these 2,000 years of her history. Her cultural heritage represents an important part of the patrimony she has progressively built up for the sake of evangelization, education and charity. Indeed, Christianity has had an enormous effect in the fields of art with its various expressions, and in that of culture with its whole deposit of wisdom.

This session offers you a favourable opportunity to exchange experiences about what is being organized for the Jubilee in the various ecclesial situations for which you are the authoritative spokesmen. In addition, it enables you to gather suggestions that can be communicated to the competent institutions of the individual countries for whatever use seems appropriate in the context of their particular traditions.

In this first year of preparation for the historic event of the Year 2000, it is particularly the contemplation of the icon of Christ that must reinvigorate the spiritual strength of believers, so that they may love the Lord and witness to him at the present moment for the Church and for cultures, with the courage of holiness and the genius of art. The various artistic expressions and many forms of culture, which have been a privileged means of sowing the Gospel, demand close examination and a far-sighted critique at the end of this millennium, so that they can become capable of a new creative power and help bring about the "civilization of love".

2. "Cultural goods" are meant for human advancement and, in the ecclesial context, acquire a specific meaning since they are ordered to evangelization, religious practice and charity.

Their typology is various: painting, sculpture, architecture, mosaic, music, literature, theatre and cinema. These various artistic forms express the creative power of the human genius which, through symbolic figures, conveys a message transcending reality. If they are enlivened by spiritual inspiration, these works can help the soul in its search for the divine and can even serve as interesting pages of catechesis and ascesis.

Ecclesiastical libraries, for example, are not temples of sterile knowledge, but the privileged places of true wisdom which recount the history of man, the glory of the living God, through the efforts of those who have sought the mark of the divine being in fragments of creation and in the depths of souls.

Museums of sacred art are not storehouses for inanimate finds, but enduring nurseries in which the genius and spirituality of the community of believers is handed on.

Archives, especially ecclesiastical archives, not only preserve the course of human events but also lead to a meditation on the action of divine Providence in history, so that the documents preserved there become a memorial to the evangelization carried out in time and an authentic pastoral tool.

Dear friends, you are actively involved in safeguarding the priceless treasure of the Church’s cultural heritage, in preserving the historical memory of all that the Church has accomplished down the centuries, and in opening her to further developments in the liberal arts.

You have made the commitment, at this "opportune time" on the eve of the Jubilee, to present discreetly to our contemporaries all that the Church has done over the centuries in inculturating the faith, as well as to give wise encouragement to people of art and culture, so that by their works they might constantly seek the face of God and of man.

The objective of the countless activities being planned for the Holy Year is to emphasize the fundamental proclamation: "Christ, yesterday, today and for ever", through the contribution of every aspect of art and culture. He is the one Saviour of man and of the whole man. The efforts of your Commission to co-ordinate the artistic-cultural sector, through a special body which evaluates the many proposals for artistic events, are therefore praiseworthy.

In addition to the ancient vestiges are the new areopagi of culture and art, which can be fittingly used to encourage believers to grow in their faith and to bear witness to it with renewed strength. From the archeological sites to the most modern expressions of Christian art, contemporary man must be able to reread the Church’s history, and thus be helped to recognize the mysterious fascination of God’s saving plan.

3. The work entrusted to your Commission consists in giving pastoral and cultural guidance to ecclesial communities by making the most of the many expressive forms that the Church has produced and continues to produce at the service of the new evangelization of peoples.

It is a question of preserving the memory of the past and of safeguarding the visible monuments of the spirit with the continual, painstaking work of cataloguing, maintaining, restoring, preserving and protecting. Everyone with responsibility in this sector must be urged to make a priority commitment so that preserving the heritage of the faithful and of all human society receives the attention it deserves. This patrimony belongs to everyone, and so must become dear and familiar to all.

Moreover, new productions must be encouraged, by an interpersonal contact that is more attentive and available to those who work in this area, so that our era too may create works that document the faith and genius of the Church’s presence in history. Thus local ecclesiastical authorities and the various associations must be encouraged, to further the constant and close collaboration between the Church, culture and art.

It is also necessary to shed greater light on the pastoral meaning of this commitment, so that it may be perceived by the contemporary world, by believers and non-believers. To this end it is appropriate to encourage periods of formation in the diocesan communities for the clergy, for artists and for all those interested in the cultural heritage, so that the patrimony of art may be fully appreciated in the fields of culture and catechesis.

For this reason I commend your work in presenting the contribution made by Christianity to the culture of various peoples through the evangelizing activity of priests, religious and committed laity. Even a few centuries of evangelization have almost always produced artistic expressions destined to remain decisive in the history of various peoples.

It is appropriate to emphasize the most genuine forms of popular piety, with their own cultural roots. The importance of parochial, diocesan and regional ecclesiastical museums and of literary, musical, theatrical or cultural works of religious inspiration in general must be stressed, to give a concrete and beneficial appearance to the historical memory of Christianity.

To this end it will be useful to organize meetings at the national or diocesan level, in collaboration with cultural centres (universities, schools, seminaries, etc.), to highlight the patrimony of the Church’s cultural goods. It will also be useful to promote locally the study of religious or lay individuals who made a significant mark on the life of the nation or the Christian community, as well as to emphasize events in the nation’s history in which Christianity was decisive in various respects, notably in the field of art.

4. Enlivening the Holy Year with our cultural heritage thus unfolds ad intra through an appreciation of the heritage the Church has produced throughout these two millenniums of her presence in the world, and ad extra through the sensitization of artists, connoisseurs and and those in positions of responsibility.

Dear brothers and sisters, the Church, teacher of life, cannot fail to carry out the ministry of helping contemporary man to re-experience religious wonder at the fascination of beauty and wisdom stemming from all that history has bestowed on us. This task demands a diligent, long-lasting work of guidance, encouragement and exchange. I therefore renew to you my warmest thanks for all you are doing in this area, and I encourage you to continue with enthusiasm and competence in your valued service to culture, art and faith. This is your specific contribution to the preparatcion for the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, so that the Church can continue to be present in today’s world by promoting every valid artistic expression and inspiring the development of the various cultures with the Gospel message.

I invoke divine assistance upon the work of your assembly, as I cordially bless each one of you and all who work with you in an area so important for the life of the Church.


top14. Christ makes all cultures new, 19 novembre 1999

Your Eminences, Dear Brothers in the Episcopate and the Priesthood, Dear Friends,

1. I am pleased to welcome you on the occasion of the plenary assembly of the Pontifical Council for Culture, and I am delighted with the theme you have chosen for this session: For a new Christian humanism on the threshold of the new millennium, an essential theme for humanity's future, for it invites an awareness that the human person holds a central place in the various spheres of society. Moreover, anthropological research is a necessary dimension of all pastoral care and an indispensable condition for a profound evangelization. I thank Cardinal Paul Poupard for his kind words expressing your sentiments.

2. A few weeks before the opening of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, a time of exceptional grace, the mission of proclaiming Christ becomes more urgent; many of our contemporaries, especially young people, are overwhelmed and disoriented by the multiplicity of ideas about the human person, about life and death, about the world and its meaning, and have great difficulty in perceiving who they really are.

Too often the ideas about humanity conveyed by modern society have become real systems of thought that have a tendency to deviate from the truth and to exclude God, believing that this is the way to assert our primacy in the name of his alleged freedom and our full, free development; by so doing, these ideologies deprive human beings of their constitutive dimension as persons created in the image and likeness of God. Today this profound distortion is becoming a real threat to people, for it leads them to consider the human person without any reference to transcendence. It is an essential task for the Church in her dialogue with cultures to lead our contemporaries to discover a sound anthropology, so that they can know Christ, true God and true man. I am grateful to you for helping the local Churches, through your reflections, to meet this challenge, "to renew from within and transform in the light of Revelation the visions of men and society that shape cultures", as the recent document published by the Pontifical Council for Culture stresses (Towards a Pastoral Approach to Culture, n. 25). The risen Christ is Good News for everyone, because he has "the power to get to the core of every culture and to purify it, to make it fruitful, to enrich it and to make it blossom like the boundless love of Christ" (ibid., n. 3). This is how to create and develop a Christian anthropology for our times which can be the basis of a culture, as our ancestors did (cf. Encyclical Fides et ratio, n. 59). Such an anthropology will take into account the rich values of contemporary human cultures and imbue them with Christian values. Has not the diversity of the Churches of East and West testified from the beginning to a fruitful inculturation of philosophy, theology, liturgy, juridical traditions and artistic creations? Just as, in the early centuries of the Church, philosophy, with St Justin, turned to Christ, for Christianity is "the only sure and beneficial philosophy" (Dialogue with Trypho, 8, 1), in the same way it is our duty to offer a Christian philosophy and anthropology today which will prepare the way to the discovery of the greatness and beauty of Christ, the Word of God. And certainly, the attraction of the beautiful, of the aesthetic, will bring our contemporaries to ethics, that is, to leading a happy and worthy life.

3. Christian humanism can be offered to every culture, it reveals man to himself in the knowledge of his own value, gives him access to the very source of his existence, the Father Creator, and to living his filial identity in the only Son, "first-born of all creation" (Col 1:15), with a heart expanded by the breath of his Spirit of love. "With the richness of the salvation wrought by Christ, the walls separating the different cultures collapsed" (Encyclical Fides et ratio, n. 70). The folly of the Cross, of which St Paul speaks (cf. 1 Cor 1: 18), is a wisdom and power that surpass all cultural boundaries and can be taught to all nations.

Christian humanism can integrate the best achievements of science and technology for humanity’s greatest happiness. It also wards off threats to our dignity as persons who are the subject of rights and duties, and to our very life, so seriously challenged today from conception to the natural end of our days on earth. For if the human person leads a human life thanks to culture, there is no truly human culture that is not of the human person, through the human person and for the human person, that is, for every individual and for all men and women. The most genuine humanism is revealed to us by the Bible in God's plan of love for us, a design which became even more wonderful through the Redeemer. "In reality it is only in the mystery of the Word made flesh that the mystery of man truly becomes clear" (Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Gaudium et spes, n. 22).

The multiplicity of anthropological approaches, which are a treasure for all humanity, can also give rise to scepticism and religious indifference; this is a challenge that should be faced with intelligence and courage. The Church does not fear legitimate diversity, which reveals the wealth of the human soul. On the contrary, she relies on this diversity to inculturate the Gospel message. I have been able to see this during my various journeys on all the continents.

4. A few weeks before the opening of the Holy Door, the symbol of Christ whose open heart is ready to welcome into his Church all men and women of all cultures, I fervently hope that the Pontifical Council for Culture will continue its efforts, research and programmes, especially by supporting the local Churches and encouraging the discovery of the Lord of history by those who are immersed in relativism and indifference, the new faces of unbelief. This is one way of giving them the hope they need to build their personal lives, to play their part in constructing society and to turn to Christ, the Alpha and Omega. I invite you in particular to support all those Christian communities which are less well off, so that they can pay new attention to the highly diversified world of young people and their teachers, of scientists and researchers, of artists, poets, writers and all who are involved in cultural life; in this way the Church can face the great challenges of contemporary culture. This is just as true in the West as in mission lands.

I would again like to express my gratitude to you for your work, and as I entrust you to the intercession of the Virgin Mary who gave her "yes" to God without reserve, and to the great doctors of the Church, I willingly impart to you and to all your loved ones a special Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of my confidence and esteem.


top 15. To the participants in the Plenary of the Pontifical Commission for the Cultural Heritage of the Church, 31 March 2000

Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and the Priesthood,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. I am pleased to welcome each of you, members of the Pontifical Commission for the Cultural Heritage of the Church, who are gathered in these days for your plenary assembly. I affectionately greet you all!

In particular I greet your President, Archbishop Francesco Marchisano, and thank him for his courteous words presenting the Commission's work and viewpoints, mentioning among other things the Jubilee of Artists. Its preparation intensely involved this dicastery and its successful celebration gave me great joy. With the many artists who came to St Peter's Basilica, I was able in some way to continue with the spoken word that dialogue I began in the Letter to Artists.

2. Your plenary assembly, which has chosen as its theme "The Cultural Heritage in the Context of the New Evangelization", fits well into the framework of the Great Jubilee, in harmony with its primary purpose which is to proclaim Christ anew 2,000 years after his birth.
In your assembly's work, on the basis of the considerable efforts made by your Commission in recent years, you first sought to conform the concept of "cultural heritage" to the mens of the Church; you then focused your attention on the enormous artistic-historical patrimony in existence, identifying the state of protection and preservation with a view to its pastoral utilization; you were also concerned with training workers and making timely contacts with artists in their different fields.

The path commendably undertaken must be continued, and today I would like to encourage you to spare no effort in ensuring that the examples of culture and art entrusted to the Church's care are ever better appreciated, at the service of true human progress and of spreading the Gospel.

3. In fact, the cultural heritage in its multiple forms - from churches to the most varied monuments, from museums to archives and libraries - is a far from negligible component in the Church's mission of evangelization and human advancement.

Christian art in particular, an extremely important "cultural asset", continues to render an extraordinary service by powerfully communicating the history of the Covenant between God and man and the wealth of the revealed message through the beauty of tangible forms. In the two millennia of the Christian era, it has marvellously depicted the fervour of so many confessors of the faith; it has expressed the awareness of God's presence among believers, and has supported the praise that the Church raises to her Lord from every corner of the earth. The cultural heritage has proven to be a remarkable record of the various moments in this great spiritual history.

The Church, moreover, as an expert in humanity, uses the cultural heritage for the promotion of an authentic humanism modeled on Christ, the "new" man who reveals man to himself (cf. Gaudium et spes, n. 22). Therefore it should not be surprising that the particular Churches are dedicated to encouraging the preservation of their artistic and cultural heritage through ordinary and extraordinary interventions which enable them to be fully utilized.

4. The Church not only preserves her past; she above all offers inspiration for the present life of the human community, with a view to building its future. She therefore continuously adds to her cultural patrimony in order to respond to the needs of every era and culture and is also concerned to hand on all that has been achieved to future generations, so that they too can drink deeply from the great river of the traditio Ecclesiae.

Precisely in this perspective, the multiple expressions of sacred art should be developed in harmony with the mens of the Church and at the service of her mission, using a language capable of proclaiming God's kingdom to everyone.

In planning their pastoral projects, therefore, the local Churches should not fail to make appropriate use of their own cultural heritage. Indeed, the latter has a unique capacity to spur people to a greater perception of spiritual values and, by testifying in various ways to God's presence in human history and the Church's life, they prepare souls to accept the newness of the Gospel. Moreover, by offering beauty, which by nature speaks a universal language, the Church is certainly helped in her task of reaching out to all people in a climate of respect and mutual tolerance, in accordance with the spirit of ecumenism and interreligious dialogue.

5. The new evangelization requires a renewed commitment to liturgical worship, which is also a rich source of instruction for the faithful (cf. Sacrosanctum Concilium, n. 33). As everyone knows, worship has always found a natural ally in art, because monuments of sacred art have a catechetical and cultic significance in addition to their intrinsic aesthetic value. It is therefore necessary to make the most of them, taking into account their liturgical "habitat", combining respect for history with attention to the current needs of the Christian community and ensuring that the artistic-historical patrimony at the service of the liturgy loses nothing of its eloquence.

6. It will also be necessary to continue cultivating the juridical preservation of this patrimony among the different ecclesial institutions and civil bodies, by working in a spirit of collaboration with the various State authorities and maintaining contacts with those who manage cultural assets and with artists in various fields. A great help in this regard will be dialogue with associations that protect, preserve and enhance cultural assets, as well as with volunteer groups.

It is the particular responsibility of your office to urge all who are directly or indirectly involved in this sector to sentire cum Ecclesia, so that each one can make his own specific work a precious contribution to the Church's evangelizing mission.

7. Dear brothers and sisters, I cordially thank you for your work and for your contribution to the preservation and full utilization of the Church's artistic heritage. I ardently hope that it will be an ever more effective way to bring those who are still distant closer to the Gospel message and to foster in Christians that love of beauty which opens the spirit to truth and goodness.

I invoke Mary's motherly protection on your efforts and gladly assure you of a remembrance to the Lord for all your intentions. I cordially bless you and everyone who generously works with you. 


top16. Handing on Faith at the Heart of Cultures, 16 March 2002

Your Eminences,
Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,
Dear Friends,
 

I am glad to welcome you at the end of your Dicastery’s Plenary Assembly, during which you chose to make a fresh start on the basis of the Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte, in order to make your contribution to the mission of the Church in the Third Millennium (cf. No. 40). Your meeting coincides with the Pontifical Council for Culture’s 20th anniversary. As I give thanks for the work achieved by the members and collaborators of the Pontifical Council over the past 20 years, I greet Cardinal Poupard, and thank him for the kind words he addressed to me on behalf of you all.

I thank all of you for working together so generously at the service of the universal mission of the Successor of Saint Peter, and encourage you to be ever more zealous in pursuing your relations with cultures, building bridges between people, witnessing to Christ and helping our brothers and sisters to be open to the Gospel (cf. the Apostolic Constitution Pastor Bonus, Nos. 166-168). What will actually make that happen is an open dialogue with all men and women of good will. While our backgrounds and traditions differ and we may be believers or unbelievers, we are united by our common humanity and called to share in the life of Christ, the Redeemer of man. 

2. The Pontifical Council for Culture was created with the aim of “giving the whole Church a common impulse in the continuously renewed encounter between the salvific message of the Gospel and the multiplicity of cultures, in the diversity of cultures to which she must carry her fruits of grace” (Letter to Cardinal Casaroli, establishing the new Pontifical Council for Culture, 20 May 1982 – cf. Osservatore Romano, weekly edition in English, 28 June 1982, p. 7), in line with the reflection and decisions of the Second Vatican Council. In fact, the Fathers strongly emphasised the centrality of culture in human life and its importance if Gospel values are to be absorbed and the message of the Bible is to spread in the realm of morals, science and the arts. In this same spirit, the goal of merging the Pontifical Council for Dialogue with Non-Believers and the Pontifical Council for Culture into one Pontifical Council, on 25 March 1993, was to promote “the study of the problem of unbelief and religious indifference found in various forms in different cultural milieus ... in order to offer adequate support to the Church's pastoral activity in evangelizing cultures and inculturating the Gospel” (Motu Proprio Inde a Pontificatus).

Handing on the Gospel message in today’s world is particularly arduous, mainly because our contemporaries are immersed in cultural contexts that are often alien to an inner spiritual dimension, in situations in which a materialist outlook prevails. One cannot escape the fact that, more than in any other historical period, there is a breakdown in the process of handing on moral and religious values between generations This leads to a kind of incongruity between the Church and the contemporary world. Seen from this point of view, the Council’s role as an observatory is particularly important. On the one hand, it can identify developments in different cultures and the anthropological questions to which they give rise. On the other, it can envisage possible relations between the cultures and Christian faith, in order to suggest new ways of evangelising that live up to the expectations of our contemporaries. In fact, we have to reach out to people where they are, with their worries and questions, to help them find the moral and spiritual landmarks they need to live lives worthy of our specific vocation, and to find in Christ's call the hope that does not disappoint (cf. Rom 5,5), as we follow the method used by the Apostle Paul at the Areopagus in Athens (Acts 17,22-34). Clearly, nothing takes us further in dealing with people than taking their culture seriously. There is no better way to communicate and evangelise. 

3. Among the great stumbling-blocks of our day are the difficulties families and teachers face as they strive to pass on to younger generations the human, moral and spiritual values that will enable them to be men and women who will want an active role in society and to live a life worthy of their dignity as persons. In the same vein, handing on the Christian message and its values, which help people to be coherent in the decisions they make and in the way they live, is a challenge that all ecclesial communities are called to take up, especially in the field of catechesis and in the formation of catechumens. In other ages – in Saint Augustine’s time, for example, or, more recently, throughout the 20th century, when one could use the contributions of so many Christian philosophers – we learned to base what we said and the way we approached evangelisation on sound anthropology and sound philosophy. In fact, it is only when philosophy opens up to Christ that the Gospel really will start to spread to all nations. Everyone involved in running educational systems now urgently needs to make a serious study of anthropology in order to understand who the human person is and what he or she lives by. Families really need to be backed up by educators who will respect their values and help them to reflect on the fundamental questions young people are asking, even if this seems to go against what contemporary society proposes. In every age there have been men and women with the prophetic courage to make the truth shine forth. This same attitude is still needed today.

The phenomenon of globalisation, which is a cultural fact of life today, is at once a difficulty and an opportunity. While it has a tendency to obliterate the specific identities of different communities and to reduce them to folklore memories of ancient traditions bereft of their original meaning and cultural and religious value, globalisation also helps to break down barriers between cultures and gives people the chance to meet and to get to know each other. At the same time, it obliges national leaders and people of good will to do their utmost to ensure that what is proper to individuals and cultures is respected, to guarantee the good of persons and nations, and to practise brotherhood and solidarity. Society as a whole is facing formidable questions about man and his future, especially in areas like bioethics, the use of the earth’s resources, and decisions on economic and political issues, so that the full dignity of human beings may be recognised and they may continue to play an active part in society and be the ultimate criterion for society’s decisions. The Church in no way seeks to take the place of those who are responsible for public affairs. She does hope to have a place in these debates, to keep people’s minds open to the light of the full meaning of what it is to be human, something that is etched into a person’s very nature. 

4. The Pontifical Council for Culture must continue its work and offer its help to bishops, to Catholic communities and to all the institutions that desire it, so that Christians will have the means to witness to their faith and their hope in a consistent and responsible fashion, and so that all people of good will may be involved in building a society that fosters the integrity of every person. The future of the human person and of cultures, the proclamation of the Gospel and the life of the Church depend on it.

May you contribute to a new awareness of the place of culture in the future of the human person and society, and in evangelisation, so that men and women may be freer and use their freedom in a responsible way! As you end your meeting, I entrust your mission to the Blessed Virgin Mary, and I gladly impart a special Apostolic Blessing to you, to everyone who works with you and to your loved ones.


top 17. To the participants in the Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Commission for the Cultural Heritage of the Church, 9 October 2002

My dear Brothers in the Episcopate, dear Brothers and Sisters!

1. I am pleased to welcome you at the conclusion of the Fourth Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Commission for the Cultural Heritage of the Church. I cordially greet each of you and thank you very much for the service which you carry out.

I especially thank Archbishop Francesco Marchisano, President of the Commission, for the sentiments he expressed to me on your behalf and for his helpful synthesis of the activity that has taken place. My thanks also go to the members, officials, and the various experts who generously offer their attentive and profitable collaboration. I want to confirm my appreciation to all of you for what this Commission is doing not only for the care of the rich artistic and cultural heritage which the Christian community has accumulated over the course of two millennia, but also for making better understood the spiritual source from which it flows.

The Church has always maintained that, in some way through all the expressions of art, the infinite beauty of God is reflected and the human mind is almost naturally drawn towards Him. Further, thanks to this contribution, as the Second Vatican Council recalls, "the knowledge of God can be better revealed. Also, the preaching of the Gospel will be rendered more intelligible to man's mind" (Gaudium et spes, n. 62).

2. The Plenary Assembly which has just ended focused on the theme: "Cultural Heritage for territorial identity and for the artistic-cultural dialogue between peoples". In our time, a more marked sensibility for the conservation and the "enjoyability" of artistic and cultural resources characterizes the policies of public administration and the many initiatives of private institutions.

Our time is characterized, in fact, by the awareness that art, architecture, archives, libraries, museums, sacred music and theater not only constitute a storehouse of historical-artistic articles, but a collection of works which can be enjoyed by the entire community. With good reason, therefore, your Commission has progressively extended its work to a worldwide level, conscious that the ecclesiastical cultural heritage provides a favorable terrain for a fruitful intercultural dialogue. In this light, it is more important than ever that the juridical protection of that heritage be ensured through appropriate guidelines which take into account the religious, social, and cultural needs of the local populations.

3. With heartfelt gratitude, I take this opportunity to note the contribution of the instructions and guidelines provided at the conclusion of the regular Plenary Assemblies of your Commission. Time has shown how indispendable efective collaboration with administrations and civil institutions in order to create together, each according to his/her own competence, effective working synergies to defend and safeguard the universal artistic heritage. The pastoral enhancing of the presentation of her artistic treasure is very much at the heart of the Church. She well knows in fact that to communicate all of the aspects of the message entrusted to her by Christ the mediation of art is extremely helpful (cf. John Paul II, Letter to Artists, n.12).

The organic nature of the Church's cultural heritage does not allow the separation of its aesthetic appreciation from the religious aim of pastoral activity. A sacred edifice, for example, reaches its "aesthetic" perfection precisely during the celebration of the divine mysteries, since it is precisely in that moment that it shines forth in its truest significance. The elements of architecture, painting, sculpture, music, song, and light, form part of the unique combination which welcomes the community of the faithful to its liturgical celebrations, a community comprised of "living stones" who form a "spiritual house" (cf. I Pt 2,5).

4. Dearest brothers and sisters, the Pontifical Commission for the Cultural Heritage of the Church has already given 12 years of precious service to the Church. I encourage you to continue in your commitment, increasingly involving those who work to give life to our historical-artistic heritage. Through your action, may a fruitful dialogue with the artists of our time increase, encouraging with every means the encounter and embrace between the Church and art. To this end, in my Letter to Artists, I recalled that "Humanity in every age, and even today, looks to works of art to shed light upon its path and its destiny" (n. 14).

The Church also wants to offer a seed of hope which overcomes pessimism and confusion through her cultural heritage, that can be the leaven of a new humanism on which effectively to build the new evangelization.

With these sentiments, and invoking the maternal intercession of Mary, the Tota pulchra, to you and to all your dear ones I impart my Blessing.


top 18. Open up to Christ the cultures marked by unbelief or religious indifference, 13 March 2004

Your Eminences,
Dear Brothers in the Episcopate and Dear Members of the Pontifical Council for Culture,

1. At the end of your Plenary Assembly dedicated to reflection on "The Christian faith at the dawn of the new millennium and the challenge of non-belief and religious indifference", I greet you with joy. I thank Cardinal Poupard for his words. The challenge you have focused on is an essential concern of the Church on all the continents.

2. In communication with the local Churches, you are mapping out a new geography of non-belief and religious indifference across the world, noting an interruption in the process of the transmission of the Christian faith and values. At the same time, we perceive the search for meaning by our contemporaries, witnessed to through cultural phenomena especially in the new religious movements with a strong presence in South America, Africa and Asia: the desire of all men and women to understand the deep meaning of their lives, to respond to the fundamental questions on the origin and the end of life and to journey towards the happiness to which they aspire. Over and above the crises of civilizations and the forms of philosophical and moral relativism, it is up to Pastors and faithful to identify and examine the essential questions and aspirations of our contemporaries, to enter into dialogue with individuals and peoples, and to find original and inculturated ways of presenting the Gospel message and the person of Christ the Redeemer. Culture and art have a wealth of resources to draw from in order to pass on the Christian message. To convey it, however, they require knowledge so that it can be interpreted and understood.

At a time when the great Europe is rediscovering strong ties, it is important to uphold the world of culture, arts and letters, so that it may contribute to building a society that is not founded on materialism but on moral and spiritual values.

3. The spread of ideologies in various social sectors demands a new intellectual thrust from Christians in order to propose strong reflections that will reveal to the younger generations the truth about man and God, and will invite them to acquire an ever more refined knowledge of the faith. It is by means of philosophical and catechetical formation that the young will be able to discern the truth. A serious rational process is a bulwark against all that has to do with ideologies. It develops the taste to penetrate ever deeper so that philosophy and reason may be open to Christ. This is what happened in all periods of the Church's history, and particularly in the Patristic period when the newborn Christian culture was able to enter into dialogue with other cultures, especially Latin and Greek. Such a reflection will also become an invitation to move from a rational to a spiritual approach, to arrive at a personal encounter with Christ and to build up the inner being.

4. It is up to you, therefore, to discern the great cultural changes and their positive aspects, so as to help Pastors find appropriate responses to them and to open men and women to the newness of Christ's Word. At the end of our encounter, I express my gratitude to you for your collaboration and, as I entrust you to the Virgin Mary, I impart an affectionate Apostolic Blessing to you all.

 


top 19. Reciprocal openness between the cultures is a privileged context for dialogue, 15 June 2007

Your Eminences,
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I meet you with great pleasure today, on an especially significant occasion. Indeed, you are intending to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Pontifical Council for Culture, created by the Servant of God John Paul II on 20 May 1982 with his Letter addressed to Cardinal Agostino Casaroli, the then Secretary of State.

I greet all those present and I thank you, Cardinal Paul Poupard, in the first place, for your courteous words interpreting the common sentiments. I address to you, venerable Brother who has headed the Pontifical Council since 1988, a special thought of gratitude and appreciation for the important work you have carried out during this long period. At the Dicastery's service, you have devoted and profitably continue to devote your human and spiritual gifts, always witnessing enthusiastically to the attention which prompts the Church to establish dialogue with the cultural movements of our time.

Your participation in numerous congresses and international meetings, many of which were organized by the Pontifical Council for Culture, has enabled you to be ever more thoroughly acquainted with the interest the Holy See takes in the vast and variegated world of culture. I thank you once again for all this and extend my gratitude to the Secretary, Officials and Consultors of the Dicastery.

The Second Vatican Ecumenical Council paid great attention to culture, and the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World Gaudium et Spes dedicated a special chapter to it (cf. nn. 53-62). The Council Fathers were concerned to point out the perspective in which the Church views and addresses the promotion of culture, considering this task as one of the "more urgent problems deeply affecting the human race" (ibid., n. 46).

In her relations with the world of culture, the Church always places man at the centre, both as the author of cultural activity and the one to whom it is destined. Servant of God Paul VI had very much at heart the Church's dialogue with culture and personally took charge of it during the years of his Pontificate.

The Servant of God John Paul II, who had taken part in the Council and made his own special contribution to the Constitution Gaudium et Spes, followed in his footsteps.

On 2 June 1980, in his memorable Discourse to UNESCO, he witnessed in the first person how much he had at heart to meet man on the cultural plane in order to transmit the Gospel Message to him. Two years later he established the Pontifical Council for Culture, destined to give a new impetus to the Church's commitment to assist the plurality of cultures' encounter with the Gospel in the different parts of the world (cf. Letter to Cardinal Casaroli, 20 May 1982; L'Osservatore Romano English edition, 28 June, p. 7).

In instituting this new Dicastery, my venerable Predecessor emphasized that it was to pursue its aims by establishing dialogue with all, without distinction of culture or religion, "in a joint search for cultural communication with all men of good will" (ibid.).

This aspect of the service carried out by the Pontifical Council for Culture has been confirmed in the past 25 years, since the world has become even more interdependent due to the formidable development of the means of communication and the consequent extension of the social relations network.

It is therefore even more urgent for the Church to promote cultural development, targeting the human and spiritual quality of its messages and content, since culture today is also inevitably affected by the globalization which, unless constantly accompanied by vigilant discernment, can turn against man, ending by impoverishing him instead of enriching him. And what great challenges evangelization has to face in this field!

Twenty-five years after the creation of the Pontifical Council for Culture, it is therefore appropriate to reflect on the reasons and goals that motivated its birth in the social and cultural context of our time. To this end, the Pontifical Council has desired to organize a Study Convention, on the one hand, as a pause for meditation on the existing relationship between evangelization and culture, and on the other, to take stock of this relationship as it appears today in Asia, America and Africa.

How is it possible not to find a special cause of satisfaction in seeing that the three "continental" reports have been entrusted to three Cardinals who are respectively Asian, Latin American and African? Is this not an eloquent confirmation of how the Catholic Church has journeyed on, blown by the "Wind" of Pentecost, as a Community capable of conversing with the entire family of peoples, indeed, shining out among it as a "prophetic sign of unity and peace" (Roman Missal, Eucharistic Prayer V-D)?

Dear brothers and sisters, the history of the Church is also inseparably the history of culture and art. Works such as the Summa Theologiae by St Thomas Aquinas, the Divine Comedy, Chartres Cathedral, the Sistine Chapel or Johann Sebastian Bach's Cantatas are unparalleled syntheses of Christian faith and human expression.

However, if these are, so to speak, the peaks of such syntheses between faith and culture, their convergence is brought about daily in the life and work of all the baptized, in that hidden art which is the love story of each one with the living God and with his brethren, in the joy and effort of following Jesus Christ in the daily routine of life.

Today more than ever, reciprocal openness between the cultures is a privileged context for dialogue between people committed to seeking an authentic humanism, over and above the divergences that separate them. In the cultural arena too, Christianity must offer to all a most powerful force of renewal and exaltation, that is, the Love of God who makes himself human love.

Precisely in his Letter establishing the Pontifical Council for Culture, Pope John Paul II wrote: "Love is like a great force hidden deep within cultures in order to urge them to overcome their incurable finiteness by opening themselves to him who is their Source and End, and to give them, when they do open themselves to his grace, enriching fullness" (Letter, 20 May 1982).

May the Holy See, thanks to the service carried out especially by your Dicastery, continue to promote throughout the Church that evangelical culture which is the leaven, salt and light of the Kingdom in humanity's midst.

Dear brothers and sisters, once again I express my deep gratitude for the work done by the Pontifical Council for Culture and I assure all of you who are present here of my remembrance in prayer, and as I invoke the heavenly intercession of Mary Most Holy, Sedes Sapientiae, I willingly impart a special Apostolic Blessing to you, Your Eminence, to your venerable confreres, and to all those who in various capacities are involved in the dialogue between the Gospel and contemporary cultures.


top 20. Secularization in the Church distorts the Christian faith and the lifestyle of believers, 8 March 2008

Your Eminences,
Dear Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am pleased to welcome you on the occasion of the Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Council for Culture. I congratulate you on your work and on the theme chosen for this Assembly: "The Church and the challenge of secularization". This is a fundamental issue for the future of humanity and of the Church. Secularization that often turns into secularism, abandoning the positive acceptance of secularity, harshly tries the Christian life of the faithful and Pastors alike, and during your Assembly you have additionally interpreted and transformed it into a providential challenge in order to propose convincing answers to the questions and hopes of man, our contemporary.

I thank Archbishop Gianfranco Ravasi, who has been President of the Dicastery for only a few months, for his cordial words on your behalf illustrating the pattern of your work. I am also grateful to all of you for your commitment to ensuring that the Church enters into dialogue with the cultural movements of our age and that the Holy See's interest for the vast and varied world of culture may be increasingly known. Today more than ever, in fact, reciprocal intercultural openness is a privileged terrain for dialogue between men and women involved in the search for authentic humanism, over and above differences that separate them. Secularization, which presents itself in cultures by imposing a world and humanity without reference to Transcendence, is invading every aspect of daily life and developing a mentality in which God is effectively absent, wholly or partially, from human life and awareness. This secularization is not only an external threat to believers, but has been manifest for some time in the heart of the Church herself. It profoundly distorts the Christian faith from within, and consequently, the lifestyle and daily behaviour of believers. They live in the world and are often marked, if not conditioned, by the cultural imagery that impresses contradictory and impelling models regarding the practical denial of God: there is no longer any need for God, to think of him or to return to him. Furthermore, the prevalent hedonistic and consumeristic mindset fosters in the faithful and in Pastors a tendency to superficiality and selfishness that is harmful to ecclesial life.

The "death of God" proclaimed by many intellectuals in recent decades is giving way to a barren cult of the individual. In this cultural context there is a risk of drifting into spiritual atrophy and emptiness of heart, sometimes characterized by surrogate forms of religious affiliation and vague spiritualism.
It is proving more urgent than ever to react to this tendency by means of an appeal to the lofty values of existence that give life meaning and can soothe the restlessness of the human heart in search of happiness: the dignity of the human person and his or her freedom, equality among all men and women, the meaning of life and death and of what awaits us after the end of our earthly existence. In this perspective my Predecessor, the Servant of God John Paul II, aware of the radical and rapid changes in society, constantly recalled the urgent need to come to terms with human beings in the sphere of culture in order to pass on to them the Gospel Message. For this very reason he established the Pontifical Council for Culture in order to give a new impetus to the Church's action by introducing the Gospel to the plurality of cultures in the various parts of the world (cf. Letter to Cardinal Agostino Casaroli, 20 May 1982; L'Osservatore Romano English edition [ORE], 28 June, pp. 7, 20). The intellectual sensitivity and pastoral charity of Pope John Paul II encouraged him to highlight the fact that the Industrial Revolution and scientific discoveries made it possible to answer questions that formerly were partially answered only by religion. The result was that contemporary man often had the impression that he no longer needs anyone in order to understand, explain and dominate the universe; he feels the centre of everything, the measure of everything.

More recently, through new information technologies, globalization has often also resulted in disseminating in all cultures many of the materialistic and individualistic elements of the West. The formula "Etsi Deus non daretur" is increasingly becoming a way of living that originates in a sort of "arrogance" of reason - a reality nonetheless created and loved by God - that deems itself self-sufficient and closes itself to contemplation and the quest for a superior Truth. The light of reason, exalted but in fact impoverished by the Enlightenment, has radically replaced the light of faith, the light of God (cf. Benedict XVI, Address, La Sapienza University, 17 January 2008). Thus, in this context the Church has great challenges with which to deal. The commitment of the Pontifical Council for Culture to a fruitful dialogue between science and faith is therefore especially important. This comparison has been long awaited by the Church but also by the scientific community, and I encourage you to persevere in it. Through it, faith implies reason and perfection, and reason, enlightened by faith, finds the strength to rise to the knowledge of God and spiritual realities. In this sense secularization does not foster the ultimate goal of science which is at the service of man, "imago Dei". May this dialogue continue in the distinction of the specific characteristics of science and faith. Indeed, each has its own methods, contexts and subjects of research, its own aims and limitations, and must respect and recognize the other's legitimate possibility of exercising autonomy in accordance with its own principles (cf. Gaudium et Spes, n. 36); both are called to serve man and humanity, encouraging the integral development and growth of each one and all.

I above all exhort Pastors of God's flock to a tireless and generous mission in order to confront with Gospel proclamation and witness, in the arena of dialogue and the encounter with cultures, the disturbing phenomenon of secularization that enfeebles the person and hinders him in his innate longing for the whole Truth. Thus, may Christ's disciples, thanks to the service carried out particularly by your Dicastery, continue to proclaim Christ in the heart of cultures, because he is the light that illumines reason, man and the world. We also set before us the warning addressed to the angel of the Church in Ephesus: "I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance.... But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first" (Rv 2: 2, 4). Let us make our own the cry of the Spirit and of the Church: "Come!" (Rv 22: 17), and let our hearts be pervaded by the Lord's response: "Surely, I am coming soon" (Rv 22: 20). He is our hope, the light for our way, our strength to proclaim salvation with apostolic courage, reaching to the heart of all cultures. May God help you in carrying out your arduous but exalting mission!

As I entrust to Mary, Mother of the Church and Star of the New Evangelization, the future of the Pontifical Council for Culture and that of all its members, I wholeheartedly impart to you the Apostolic Blessing.



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21. To participants in the Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Council for Culture (November 13, 2010)

Your Eminences,
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood
,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I am pleased to meet with you at the end of the Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Council for Culture, in which you examined the theme: “Culture of Communication and New Languages”. I would like to thank Archbishop Gianfranco Ravasi for his kind words and to greet all the participants. I am grateful for this contribution to the study of such a significant theme for the mission of the Church.

To speak about communication and language means not only to touch upon a crucial topic of our world and culture, but, for us believers, means drawing close to this mystery of God. Through his goodness and wisdom, he wanted to reveal himself and to make known to man the mystery of his will (cf. Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution, Dei Verbum, 2).

In Christ God indeed revealed himself to us as Logos, which is communicated to us and challenges us, creating the relationship on which is founded our identity and dignity as human people, loved as children by the one Father (cf. Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Verbum Domini, nn. 6, 22, 23). Communication and language are also essential dimensions of the culture of humanity, which consists of information and notions, of beliefs and lifestyles, but also of laws, without which people could hardly progress towards humanity and social relations. I value the original decision to inaugurate the Plenary Meeting of the Assembly in the Promoteca Hall at the Campidoglio [Capitol], the civil and institutional heart of Rome. The inauguration included a roundtable discussion on the theme: “In the City, listening to the languages of the soul”.

The Dicastery desired in this way to express one of its essential tasks: to listen to the men and women of our time in order to promote new opportunities to proclaim the Gospel. Thus, listening to the voices of the globalized world, we notice the profound cultural transformation that is taking place with new languages and new forms of communication, which also foster new and problematic anthropological models.

In this context, the Pastors and the faithful notice several difficulties in the communication of the Gospel message and in the transmission of the faith in an ecclesial community. As I wrote in the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Verbum Domini: “a great many Christians need to have the word of God once more persuasively proclaimed to them, so that they can concretely experienced the power of the Gospel” (n. 96). Problems sometimes seem to increase when the Church turns to the men and women who are far away or indifferent to an experience of faith. The Gospel message reaches them in a feeble and non-inclusive way. In a world that makes communication its winning strategy, the Church, repository of the mission to communicate to all peoples the Gospel of Salvation, does not remain indifferent and alien. On the contrary she seeks to avail herself of the new languages and new forms of communication with a renewed and creative spirit, but also with a critical eye and attentive discernment.

The incapacity of language to communicate the profound sense and beauty of the experience of faith can contribute to the indifference of many people, especially the young, it can become the reason for estrangement. The Constitution Gaudium et Spes already confirmed this, revealing that an inadequate presentation of the Gospel conceals rather than reveals the authentic face of God and religion (cf. n. 19). In the search for truth, the Church wishes to speak to everyone but for the dialogue and communication to be effective and fruitful, it is necessary to tune in to the same frequency, in the context of friendly and sincere gatherings, in that ideal “Courtyard of the Gentiles”, the project I proposed a year ago to the Roman Curia and which the Dicastery is now putting into practice in various emblematic places of European culture.

Today many young people, stunned by the infinite possibilities offered by computer networks or by other forms of technology, establish methods of communication that do not contribute to their growth in humanity. Rather they risk increasing their sense of loneliness and disorientation. In the face of these phenomena I have spoken on various occasions of an educational emergency, a challenge to which one can and should respond with creative intelligence, committing oneself to promote a humanizing communication which stimulates a critical eye and the capacity to evaluate and discern.

In today’s culture of technology too, the Gospel is the guide and the permanent paradigm of inculturation, purifying, healing and elevating the best features of the new languages and the new forms of communication. For this difficult and intriguing task, the Church can draw on the extraordinary patrimony of symbols, images, rites and acts of her tradition. The rich and concentrated symbolism of the Liturgy in particular must shine out with all its power as a communicative feature to deeply touch the human conscience, the heart and intellect. The Christian tradition, moreover, has always closely connected the language of art to the Liturgy, whose beauty has a special communicative power. Last Sunday, we experienced this artistic language in Barcelona at the Basilica of the Sagrada Família, a work of Antoni Gaudí who brilliantly combined the sense of the sacred and of the Liturgy with modern artistic forms and with the best architectural traditions.

Yet the beauty of Christian life is even more effective than art and imagery in the communication of the Gospel Message. In the end, love alone is worthy of faith and proves credible. The lives of the Saints and Martyrs demonstrate a singular beauty which fascinates and attracts, because a Christian life lived in fullness speaks without words. We need men and women whose lives are eloquent and who know how to proclaim the Gospel with clarity and courage, with transparency of action and with the joyful passion of charity.

After going on pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela where I had the opportunity to admire in thousands of people, especially the young, the involving power of witness in the joy of walking together towards truth and beauty, I hope that many of our contemporaries can ask as disciples of Emmaus, listening to the voice of the Lord: “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the scriptures?” (Lk 24:32).

Dear friends, I would like to thank you all for your daily work, done with competency and dedication and, as I trust you to the maternal protection of Mary Most Holy, I also cordially impart an Apostolic Blessing to you all.


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